Birmingham Mail launches Communities project

Today, the Birmingham Mail lifted the covers off  Birmingham Mail Communities, a hyperlocal area of the Mail website which we hope will bring us much closer to the city’s hyperlocal community.

We’ve been working on it for about a year and were determined to do something different. As I’ve said elsewhere, I’ve been convinced for a while that that hyperlocal sites and traditional media can work together ‐ often, both share a similar goal. It’s just a case of finding a way to make it work.

While it would be arrogant to say we’ve found that way, hopefully we’re taking a step forward.

As Will Perrin has said elsewhere, the most important thing is that those working with us feel they’re getting something out of it which justifies taking part.

Through talking at length to people like Will, Nicky Getgood from Digbeth is Good and Paul Bradshaw, we’ve hopefully come up with a plan which appeals to people.

In return to allowing the Mail to use content in print (with correct links and credits), hyperlocal sites taking part can have access to Mail pictures (the ones the company owns the copyright for) and get prominent feeds to hyperlocal site content on the Mail site.

A fund from the Birmingham Mail Charitable Trust, the Mail’s charity which donates money to good causes in the city, will be allocated on suggestions from the hyperlocal and community sites taking part.

The Mail has also offered to run four workshops a year for the hyperlocal community ‐ if those taking part feel there is something which would be useful for them.

We ran a trial with Lichfield Blog a few weeks ago, placing content from the blog in the Mail, with credits to the authors and links back to the blog. The reaction on Philip John’s blog was interesting ‐ but convinced us that we’re going in the right direction.

There will probably be two main criticisms of what we’re doing. Some journalists will say this is proof hyperlocal sites will put reporters out of jobs. Others might point to the fact we’re not offering payment for content.

The first criticism simply isn’t true, and while it’s true that we aren’t paying for hyperlocal content, we hope we’re offering enough in return to make it worthwhile for all those who have signed up so far.

The parts we’ve announced today are just the start. We have ideas around collaborative data, commercial opportunities and shared investigations.

For now however, this is our plan ‐ hopefully we’re on the right track.