The Future of Local News is Hyperlocal
*In the interest of full disclosure, the main topic of the following article is taken from my previous employment with NBC 17 and MyNC.com. It in no way reflects the company’s views on the subject matter. Rather, this is fully my very own humble opinion about the future of local news today based on that experience.*
CNN posted an interesting article entitled, “The Future of online news may be ‘hyperlocal'”. In it, they discussed how the local newspaper is dying, traditional media outlets are scrambling for audience-share not to mention the almighty advertising dollar, and brought up several examples of how hyperlocal sites are popping up everywhere to fill the void left behind (by those dying local papers). The article even brought in several good examples of new hyperlocal sites. But, they totally missed the boat on what our local NBC affiliate is doing in our market to ride that wave. Why do I think that’s important? Let me explain.
First of all, let me explain what the term “hyperlocal” means. Many hear it and either don’t quite get it or think they do only to learn they didn’t quite get the whole picture of what it truly stands for. The best way to define the term is not to define it at all but rather use a very fluid example.
Remember back in the old days when your hometown newspaper was it, when you looked forward to 4pm as the delivery boy delivered that day’s paper while riding his bicycle through the neighborhood (or perhaps for you, it was the morning delivery)? That newspaper contained everything you wanted to know about your neighborhood and those surrounding it while still delivering a little bit of the national or state headlines as well. Now, fast forward a couple of decades (OK maybe a few) to the age of the internet where the delivery of news is at your finger tips with just a click of the mouse. Media outlets are not stupid. They know that their viewers and/or readers can get the latest news faster than it can be delivered on bicycle or via the 6pm newscast that night and so they want to capitalize on that – provide the outstanding service that the local newscast delivers on your television set while also keeping you abreast of what’s happening online in your own neighborhood combining the two together to form one unique effort. That’s hyperlocal.
Now, as I said earlier the CNN article mentioned several promising hyperlocal sites that have been formed out of the need for more truly local news. While each site was formatted differently the one constant that remained was the “local” part. Whether the site aggregated news about a local community from different sources into one location, listed local events per community, mentions the concept of “volunteer” reporters trained for each neighborhood served, etc., each site does its best to remain hyperlocal. Another unique feature to some of the sites is the concept of accepting donations for a “pitch”(a story idea to be followed up on) or donations in general to keep the site operational as some hyperlocal sites are non-profit and rely on those donations.
But, for each of the sites mentioned, there was one thing missing (or perhaps I didn’t dive into each of them hard enough?) – interactivability for their target audience and THAT’S what Raleigh station, NBC 17, has included in their site, MyNC.com. That’s what sets it apart from the rest and that’s what I think CNN missed out on.MyNC.com is a product of four years of research and development. General Manager, Barry Leffler, upon transferring to the market asked his team what it was that the station was doing different from all the other media outlets in the area. The answer – well, they really weren’t doing anything that different. Rather than all the station head honchos sitting around a board table and deciding what they think they should do for the community, they turned the tables and asked the community what they wanted through what they called “Community Listening Tours”. By actually going into as many communities that the station serves and listening to their successes, issues, needs, and desires, several ideas were born, the biggest one being the development of MyNC.com.
MyNC.com is a hyperlocal website that aggregates news and information from trusted news sources, incuding NBC 17’s competitors, plopping those stories into the appropriate “community” or “topic” in which they live on all the while allows for community members themselves to post their own news, information, videos, pictures, events, gossip, what have them. It’s interactive and it’s the future of media.
In order to take on the monumental task of finding the news that is relevant to each community and the people in which to tell their “story”, the station hired Community Content Liaisons (CCL) to assist in that effort. I was a CCL and I’m darn proud of it!
Thanks to the economic downturn our entire country has faced, unfortunately my position was a product of that and as such was eliminated back in March. I harbor no ill feelings toward it at all. As a matter of fact, I still “pitch” MyNC whenever possible because I still believe that much in the product. And let’s face it, I want to see my former colleagues all keep their jobs too. 🙂
I think without question, hyperlocal is the way for traditional media to go and I fully believe there is a way to mesh seasoned professional journalists and photojournalists with the type of “news” the community can provide. I believe MyNC.com will ride out this economic wave only to come back stronger. As long as the community continues to utilize it (and they are. Many of my former contacts continue to post as often as they need to), as long as advertisers (especially local ones) see the benefits of utilizing the MyNC family of sites for their marketing needs, and as long as people in media are willing to try new ideas and concepts to make hyperlocal news work, then I foresee a long future in that medium.
So…what the CNN article missed out on was detailing another piece to the hyperlocal news puzzle – interactivability. They should’ve checked out http://www.mync.com to add that element to their article.
And that’s the reason for this post. CNN missed out on using a successful project like MyNC for their nearly comprehensive article on the future of hyperlocal news. Hopefully, in future articles of the same regard, they will explore all avenues to bring the latest news to their viewers and readers. Don’t get me wrong. I like CNN. I just think they missed the boat on this one.