About that Hyperlocal research – Q & A

June 19th, 2012 by Dave Harte in Hyperlocal | no comments

In response to my recent research regarding the scale of Hyperlocal publishing, Damian Radcliffe, author of Nesta’s ‘Here and Now’ report, asked me a few questions about the research and what further we can do to better understand the scope and value of the sector. We both agreed that it was worth publishing the responses.

1) Why were Forums excluded? And are you planning to do separate research on Forums? IMHO they produce quite a lot of news, but I appreciate they are more complex to analyse.

Forums are quite complex spaces which require a much deeper analytical approach. For example one could code up different types of postings and do a form of content analysis or maybe undertake a more discursive approach where you are looking at the discussions to understand what is being said and why, rather than worrying about how often or how much. If we can find time in the project I would like to examine forums.

2) The 60/20 split is really interesting. Can you name the sites producing the bulk of the sector’s output at this time?

You can have a look at all our calculations on this google spreadsheet and also take a look at how we calculated the frequency data. The tab for ‘HL Data’ in the former of those has the sites ordered by volume of posts. I’ve got a paper outlining the methodology which I hope to publish here shortly.

3) I would be really interested to see how this volume of output compared with bodies like Johnston or the BBC. Is the hyperlocal sector generating more/less/similar volumes of local content to these other outlets – both nationally and then by city/town/rural area. This would be a very interesting benchmark.

As we examined stories during a set sample period then it could be possible to look at the stories produced by other media outlets during the same period. That could be something we look to do next time.

4) Your suggestion of a content analysis is an area which I think would be very beneficial, not just in generating a typology for content, but also to understand overlaps in terms of stories, and how hyperlocal content is. So, if there was a big Birmingham story in your sample period, how many sites covered it, and did they provide a skew pertinent directly to their patch, or was the reporting more general i.e. Brum specific?

We are planning a content analysis of the near-4000 stories produced during this period. Obviously that will take us a while to do but I agree that the findings will be interesting. I think we may learn something about the news values of hyperlocal and how those values shape up against mainstream media.

5) Finally, your research also flags one of my oft repeated concerns with Openly Local, that typically you have to know the directory exists in order to be listed in it. Don’t get me wrong, it is a *great* resource, but I have spoken to many practitioners who were not au fait with the site and therefore were not listed in it. What can be done to support Openly Local’s excellent work by getting more people / sites registered?

Our partners in this strand of the research project are the excellent Talk About Local. They are currently updating Openly Local with new sites, which partly gets around the self-declaring issue. Openly Local remains the best open resource we have to keep track on this area and as a way to measure trends it’s invaluable. Even if we have to do some ‘cleaning’ (correcting RSS feed links, deleting dead sites) each time we revisit it to create our sample, then it’s still better than starting from a blank map of the UK.

Lastly, (like the Spanish Inquisition, I clearly cannot count) any thoughts on how capture to Facebook hyperlocal sites / groups? This too can be a source of great content, but is hard to capture and quantify…

Ah, Facebook pages and groups – I’ve not even begun to consider how we count those. I’ll add it to my to-do list…

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