So Guardian Local is to close, which is sad news. Sarah Hartley and her young team did a marvellous job for their adopted communities. I’m sure it will be a springboard for all of them to even better things. Sarah and her team have been hugely helpful to hyperlocal sites of all sorts, giving confidence and encouragement to marvellous local writers. I particularly like the way they seem to have grown and made much more visible the blog scene in their respective towns. And local websites, forums, nings, blogs all over the country run on a volunteer basis by local people will continue very much as before as the hyperlocal scene continues to thrive. Talk about local has had great fun working with Guardian Local on our wonderful unconferences and we recently gave an (un)award to Hannah Waldram for her great work in Cardiff.
The Guardian Local closure adds to the rich tapestry of hyperlocal experimentation in the UK. Guardian Local showed that you can create a distinctive local voice online that adds to the local news ecology and engages the local blogosphere. I was struck how they found a fresh new voice and bought the national Guardian brand to local meetings and events.
The experiment also illustrated the fundamental tension in hyperlocal news and how do you raise enough money to pay for a full time qualified staffer with (or even without) news organisation overheads. Traditional online advertising at a local level is tough if you don’t have a dedicated sales operation and not highly lucrative even if you do it would seem. Local newspapers and directories like Yell have spent decades tending and nurturing their local ad networks offline and trying as hard as they can online. Without a dedicated local ad sales operation, but carrying the costs of treating its staff decently Guardian Local was always going to rely on subsidy from their charitable parent. The lack of a specialist local ad team suggested by the Guardian’s own Paid Content seems scarcely credible. The Guardian could make a huge contribution to local media if (as a sort of charity) it showed the openness it seeks say from government and opened all the files on the Guardian Local experiment or produced a brain dump and stuck it in Slideshare under a creative commons licence.
Of course the weird transatlantic Charleston being danced by Alan Rusbridger and Ariana Huffington continues. Can the world’s two great left of centre online platforms really be setting up parallel operations in each other’s backyards? It may be that the Guardian is clearing the decks for some sort of tie up with HuffPo – maybe to bring Patch to the UK? [warning: that is wild made up speculation based on no fact]. But Patch resembles more the Northcliffe Local People experiment, hardly an editorial bed fellow for HuffPo, unless Northcliffe spins it out. And comparisons between the UK and USA local media markets are tenuous at best.
There are also knock-on implications for the government’s local TV proposals here. Jeremy Hunt wants local news subject to full fat very high cost TV-stylee regulation. What we see here is the Guardian not being able to fund people doing high quality online news at city level even without the expensive TV regulation & admittedly without trying that hard at ads it seems. It would be fascinating to know what news Jeremy Hunt would want a city TV station to produce that the Guardian in Edinburgh, Leeds and Cardiff did not. At a meeting in Birmingham I did ask Jeremy point blank if he would consider lowering the regulatory burden say to that of newspaper to give people a fighting chance of covering costs But no politician would ever agree to that and he didn’t.
old-maps.co.uk – Find pre and post Word War II maps, town plans and even Russian maps from the Cold War era for your area. (via BiNS)
4am project this Sunday 17th October: Digbeth walkaround – I’m trying to arrange a group walk through my area as part of the 4am Project ‘to gather a collection of photos from around the world at the magical time of 4am’. Could you organise something similar to get a collection of pictures of your area at 4am? You can embed the above count-down clock onto your website for the next big 4am Project date: this Sunday 17th October.
At its core, the big society is an attempt to connect the civic institutions that lie between the individual and the state ‐ and these range from the family and neighbourhood to churches, charities, libraries, local schools and hospitals. It is born out of recognition that our centralised state has become too big, too bureaucratic and just too distant to support many of those most in need of help, and that it deters people from playing a more active role in public life.
So that’s it all over and done with, for now at least.
#TAL10, our second un-conference had a lot to live up to after #TAL09 but again managed to surprise us with not only it’s popularity but also the quality of the people who attended and the sites that they run, that is before we start looking at their ideas for the future!
We had booked Old Broadcasting House in Leeds to capacity for the event and ended up with it about 3/4 full, the weather and lack of flights in to the UK were responsible for some of the non attendees. While others I’m sure decided not to attend as there were no food based sports like Pork Pie Rounders.
As expected the whole event was blogged by almost all of the attendees and reported on most accurately and efficiently by Sarah Hartley from the Guardian along with Hannah, John & Tom from the Guardian Local Blogs. Their reporting on the day can be seen here.
This grand occasion will see the best hyperlocal talent in the UK getting recognition for their efforts in the shape of a round of a applause, a raising of glasses and a beautiful badge to adorn their website.
The talk about local team have carefully considered your suggestions for categories, and have whittled them down to the list below. If deserving winners for these titles spring to mind, please comment your suggestions with reasons why. This Friday a panel of esteemed judges (us lot) will hide away in a locked room, consider your comments along with our own personal preferences, and decide upon the winners arbitrarily. Who said democracy was dead?
All hyperlocal community websites in the UK are eligible for one of the following Unawards, so speak now or until next year hold our peace:
The cream of the hyperlocal crop:
Best Hyperlocal Twitter stream
Best Hyperlocal Story/Post
Most Inspirational site
Best local special interest website
Best investigation/investigative reporting
Best community engagement
Best council coverage
The UnTourist Board Award for a site that attracts visitors to a place
Most innovative use of data
Best use of video
Best use of audio
Best use of photography
Best use of a map
The Hyperlocal Extreme Award for thrilling, breathtaking or dangerous hyperlocal reporting