A quiz for hyperlocals: What do we know about our audiences?

October 1st, 2013 by Jerome Turner in Hyperlocal | no comments

Middlesbrough - the view from MIMAHow much do hyperlocals know about the people who read their content, whether it be blog posts, tweets or Facebook? This was something I wanted to explore through discussion at last Saturday’s Talk About Local unconference in Middlesbrough (pictured). Of course there is a difference between what we know and suspect we know, but I wanted to propose the topic to address the nature of audiences, how they read HL content, what they do with it, and more widely, how they discuss and share news content in their offline / online lives.

The quiz format below allowed us to look at the various ways people might react to certain events or scenarios. Whilst it’s unlikely that an entire audience would react in just one of these ways, we were able to ask generally what would your audience do? Four attended (three hyperlocal practitioners and one person developing a citizen tourism website). Each person in the group gave their answers verbally, alo

The discussion around the questions were intended to be thought provoking, rather than generating any kind of data, but did bring up a variety of issues and narratives. I’ve left some notes below each of the questions, but if you run a hyperlocal you might like to consider the questions yourselves…

1. There’s an enormous car crash on one of the main roads in your area. Are your readers most likely to:

a) Stop and help the injured.
b) Stop and take photos, then tweet them.
c) Go home and tell their friends and families.
d) Carry on regardless.

Most people answered a or b, or hoped that would be the case at least. We discussed that in some cases people may be photographing such incidents for their own sake, or to share with friends in person, but the idea of tweeting, or even adding a relevant HL hashtag or @ to a tweet might not be as second nature as we’d assume. Does a tweet with a @ to a hyperlocal in it suddenly become a citizenship act (letting people know about traffic issues) rather than ‘sick voyeurism’?

2. It’s snowing over the weekend. Are parents in your area most likely to:

a) Try and contact their school about whether  the school will be open.
b) Try and contact other parents about it.
c) Contact your website about it.
d) Talk to no one and hope the school will be open on the Monday.

Snow is a big hyperlocal issue. But the reality is that with snow over a weekend, many news agencies won’t be open to cover it. Most felt that their audience would try and find out one way or the other, and might use broadcast media like radio, which often cover school closures. Others would ask friends.

3. One of your readers has someone in their street who needs a lift to the hospital next week. Are they most likely to:

a) Phone or ask people in the street if anyone can take them.
b) Ask on your Facebook page.
c) Ask the council or hospital if there’s a service to do this?
d) Take them themselves.

Most people thought their audience would do everything they could except d, take them themselves. Does digital ‘clicktivism’ allow people to feel they are doing their bit for their community, without the need for a full offline commitment?

4. You post the photo of CCTV footage of a local burglar who has yet to be caught. Are your audience most likely to:

a) Complain it’s unethical because people might take him on themselves and attack him? Maybe even ask for it to be taken down.
b) Suggest he’s scum and should be strung up.
c) If they recognise him, tell him to hand himself in.
d) If they recognise him, contact the police.

There is a difference between generating the content yourself, rather than reposting or sharing what the local police force has already posted – this was the first point we made clear. There are ethical issues to take into consideration, but also legal, liability issues. There is apparently legal precedent that a HL could potentially be liable for inciting a crime if they put the idea in someone’s head. Someone commented that in small communities, people are much more likely to be known or recognised, and, as a result, reported.

5. People are annoyed about the speed of cars driving on their streets. Do they:

a) Complain about it in conversation amongst friends and families?
b) Start a conversation online, maybe on the HL page?
c) Ask the HL to do a story about it?
d) Go out and organise a local speedwatch.

Again, most thought it unlikely that people would go out on the streets and do a speedwatch, but might do everything else. In this case, maybe the only thing top really make a difference here to the issue would be the last two answers.

Hopefully that’s provided some food for thought. Let us know what you think – what would your audience do?

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