Whilst I was enjoying a weekend break in Westport, County Mayo last month I took the chance to meet Anthony Hickey, the manager of the Mayo Today website, which has gone from strength to strength since it started just 5 months ago in February 2010. The blog actually grew from a Twitter account Anthony created for the area, @Mayo2Day:
From there I decided to set up my own local blog, Mayotoday.ie. It’s been very enjoyable and very successful.
Its focus has been very much keeping the county connected with local news and an upbeat outlook:
It’s local news basically, it’s a community news website and I put as many pictures on as I can…and local photographers, they’ve been very good to me, sending me photos. Community news in terms of just what’s happening locally in meetings, drama groups….I try to keep a positive slant on things.
Although the front page has news for the whole of Mayo, Anthony ensures the site works on a more localised level. Readers can filter down the news stream for just ‘Your Town’, thanks to the site’s use of categories, and there will often be a local town bulletin post, such as this June ‘Ballina Beat’. The website also includes lots of useful listings information that benefit residents, the businesses and in turn, Mayo Today itself:
I have dedicated pages. I have the local cinema listings, local arts, local museums, I update those listings weekly. And that’s been good because I’ve linked in with those people and their reaction has been very positive too and some have linked from their website to Mayo Today, which has been good for me.
I think that’s an interesting service that I can provide because ‘.tel’ is optimized for mobile phones and I think the mobile web is going to be very important. You can also get Mayo Today on your mobile phone. The local directories, it’s business community phone numbers. That’s going down pretty well too, there’s some interest in it. It’s something I can manage myself. Its cheap, doesn’t cost me much. No hosting cost and it’s very easy to update. Even I can do it.
Although Anthony has created a wonderfully useful and professional-looking website at minimal cost, the demands on his time for its upkeep means he is looking for a way to gain some sort of income from it.
That’s the problem, how do you monetize your website? Time-wise, it’s time consuming. I’ve tapped into a lot of PR agencies, a lot of community groups, the Local Authorities, I cover some Local Authority meetings myself and I have to write that up. I go to local events and festivals and do reports, take photos. You’re talking about certainly 7 days a week, can be 10 hours a day some days, if I want. And how I make a living out of that, that’s the question?
Despite there being no obvious answer, Anthony is positive that a solution to this well-discussed issue will present itself.
I think it’s something that’ll probably resolve itself, in time it’ll evolve. The answer will come as the site becomes more of a niche and gets a solid following and we’ll see how it goes from there, but as of now it’s a bit of a mystery alright.
Anthony is finding he’s started something of a trend in hyperlocal websites in Mayo, and sees some opportunity for Mayo Today to work with the smaller community sites that are emerging:
I’d like to link into community groups. I see a lot of smaller communities now are setting up their own community websites, like even down to parish level and little villages and towns and sports clubs. I’d like to link into those and possibly, maybe I could be a hub or a portal for a lot of those and introduce other people to those websites.
And where those websites don’t yet exist or are in need of a helping hand, Anthony is looking to offer his support:
I’ve learned a lot in the last year, in terms of using social media…maybe I could link into those websites, the people who run those websites, help them out and see what I can do there.
It as at this point I suggested the possibility of some Social Media Surgeries in Mayo.
Mayo Social Media Surgery, that’s something I would certainly look at and see if I can do anything.
You heard it here first.
When I returned to the UK I had a clumsy first attempt at an audio slideshow from an evening I spent at Ballinrobe Races, which found its way onto Mayo Today’s dedicated Videos page of locally relevant online films.
You can listen to my recorded interview with Anthony below.