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Hyperlocal and the future of online journalism

Hyperlocal and the future of online journalism

"We don't cover anything unless it's squarely about San Diego, even national trend stories and stuff like that, we tend to steer away from," said Andy Donohue, editor of VoiceOfSanDiego.com, a non-profit, online-only publication focusing on investigative reporting for the San Diego area.

He says that "especially the way things are going right now on the Internet, you've got to be really focused on doing something really well -- and if you try to spread yourself too thin, you're not doing anything well."

Donohue is one of many who say the future of online newspapers is in creating focused beat, niche or hyperlocal media sites. In addition to providing an Internet generation with the news that interests them, hyperlocals are also seen as easy advertising targets as advertisers can aim at particular communities. A Zatso study, "A View of the 21st Century News Consumer," found that seventy-five percent of respondents "said that they wanted news on demand and nearly two out of three wanted personalized news."

Hyperlocals promote community writing by local contributors, something that many traditional journalists distrust. They argue that citizen journalism does not get the same control and journalistic oversight, compromising the quality of reporting out there.

Jane Mc Donnell, executive director of the Online News Association said, "That raises all the natural questions about how valuable the news is going to be -- how credible it's going to be. I kind of think that argument is moot at this point because it's happening."

John Nichols and Robert W. McChesney write in The Nation that these hyperlocal websites are not going to last, being temporary fixes that started out with large grants to fund them. They may have a point considering start-ups that have failed such as BackFence, which shut down in 2007 when it couldn't find itself a viable business model.

However the entrepreneurs remain confident. David Cohn, founder of Spot.Us, another investigative story gathering site for San Francisco area, said "I am optimistic about the future of journalism provided that we have lots and lots of different startups," he said. "I think what journalism needs is 10,000 different startups."

Source: CNN



Marion Geiger


2009-05-05 18:13

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