Putting the Hyper back in Hyper Local Journalism

I received two interesting emails yesterday. One was from Roch Smith encouraging me to list my blog at We101. The other was the daily news from Digital Media Wire which included a pointer to their article about Citizen Journalism Site Backfence Shutting Down.

The Digital Media Wire talked about Backfence shutting down its 13 hyperlocal citizen journalism sites after having raised $3 million last October. There are plenty of people providing plenty of explanations about why Backfence has shut down, however, the comment that makes the most sense is from Mark Potts, a co-founder of Backfence, over in a discussion the Poynter Online:

As all of us who have tried to create hyperlocal communities know, doing so is incredibly hard. Turning them into a successful business is even harder.

Bringing in a sufficient return on investment (ROI) on $3 million is a big challenge for any hyperlocal journalism effort.

On the Poynter site, people were hypothesizing whether or not the amount of community outreach was sufficient. One of the things that has always made local journalism successful has been the connections with the local communities and I’ve often thought that people who try to strategize about the future of local newspapers don’t focus enough on the value of the connections with the local communities and how to monetize this in new ways with digital media.

Whether or not Backfence made sufficient efforts to reach out to local communities, I’ve also often felt that this is one of the biggest hurdles for new hyperlocal journalism sites.

This is where Roch comes in. Roch got involved in the local blogging community in Greensboro, NC back in around 2003. While he has not been attempting to bring sufficient ROI on $3 million, the organic growth of the Greensboro blogging community has been successful. He’s now expanding this by trying to provide a platform where similar blogging communities can emerge and evolve. I’ve joined up in Stamford, CT. I would encourage any of, especially, those of you who blog that are committed to building community to sign up if Roch has set up the platform to serve a local community that you live in.

Volunteer viral community organizing may be part of the key to helping hyper-local citizen journalism sites become successful. So, I’m spreading the virus, and I hope you will too.

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