Please send me SCA's fortnightly briefing:

October 21, 2015

Digital hyper-local news

The way we consume our news and the way that news is generated seems in a constant in a state of flux. The place of good quality journalism in all this is also changing fast, both in respect of the local and the global context. Carnegie UK has been looking at the emerging picture of hyper local digital platforms. Within their latest report they have made some in depth case studies. The Aberdeenshire town of Turriff highlights the potential value that a well-designed news site can bring to a community.


Carnegie UK

To coincide with the official launch of Local Web List, a revamped directory of hyperlocal news providers across the UK and Ireland, the Carnegie UK Trust has published a new case study report of five innovative hyper-locals to add to the evidence base about the types of activities that hyper-locals are undertaking and the impact they deliver for citizens. The report seeks to help inspire those who are considering starting a hyperlocal news group or seeking to expand their organisation’s activities; and to demonstrate the success of hyperlocal practitioners in bringing a greater plurality of voices to the UK journalism sector.

Click here to download the report (PDF).

Extract from report . Case study – My Turriff

With no independent, online sources of local news, information and events, My Turriff developed from Visit Turriff, a site which was established in 2011 to help promote the Aberdeenshire town. Local news in Turriff is covered by the weekly printed local newspaper, with some additional coverage by daily regional newspapers from Aberdeen. However, the local newspaper, while having a very loyal local readership, does not currently publish news online. My Turriff contributes to the local news landscape by providing local news, information, and events online, while offering immediate access to related online content. Strong civic content My Turriff is run philanthropically by Mike Rawlins, but features some Google adverts to help cover the costs of the site. The site has strong civic content, covering local news from Aberdeenshire Council, Police Scotland and the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, as well as the details of local public consultations. Local organisations are invited to upload the details of community events on to the site’s calendar, while the details of classes run by the local leisure centre, services by a local church group and information on local farmers markets and car boot and craft sales are regularly hosted on the site. My Turriff also engages with its audience by hosting guest posts from members of the community, and returning to local news stories which have proved particularly popular with readers.

Traffic numbers and traction in the community. The traffic numbers My Turriff generates in serving a town of 5,000 people are impressive. New content is uploaded on to the site in the first instance, and signposted to My Turriff’s Twitter followers, before being posted on to the site’s Facebook page. Traffic to the site varies from a couple of hundred visitors a day, to up to 3,000 when the site features a breaking news story. To optimise the site’s local news and information for search engines, keywords are used in the content and meta descriptions. Facebook is an important platform for the site, with the My Turriff page attracting over 1,220 likes and providing the main source of traffic to the site.

Challenges and next steps.  However, with the opportunity provided by Facebook comes My Turriff’s greatest challenge. Large numbers of the community in Turriff predominantly use Facebook for local news and information but if they do not subscribe to My Turriff’s posts, they are largely unaware of the site’s content. With the relative decline of Facebook among social media users, moving current subscribers from the My Turriff Facebook page to the site will be important in continuing to reach the local community and encouraging it to engage with the content produced. My Turriff would like to improve its coverage of the work of Turriff and District Community Council, and believes it has a role in improving democratic engagement with the Community Council. As a new member of the Community Council, Mike aims to improve the culture of transparency around the Community Council’s work, and its relationship with the local press.