By Mark Hanzlik, Executive Director
When you hear a new phrase repeated over-and-over, it usually means there’s a fair amount of warm wind behind it and often it’s nothing more than a catchphrase. The buzz-worthy “hyper-local” seems to fit that description well.
In the media business, “hyper-localism” is really nothing new. Anyone who’s ever read a local newspaper to find out who has recently croaked, been busted, or why your favorite local eatery has served their last meal knows what hyper-localism is.
I started my short-lived newspaper career reporting Little League games in the Novato Advance, a weekly with less than 5,000 circulation. It wasn’t until many years later when I sat across the table negotiating ad rates with Gannett big shots that I realized how valuable my local experience in Novato had been.
Hyper-local = Hyperbole
Judy Muller, a USC journalism professor writes today in the L.A. Times about the importance of local weeklies and the current state of the newspaper industry.
I found it refreshing to hear Ms. Muller’s inspired thoughts about small-town publishing in the face of such depressing print publishing news that is served up hourly on every media front. She points out in her Op-Ed, these journalists often must be sporting some kahunas to be writing about folks so close-to-home. I agree, that’s probably another reason I abandoned a journalism career early- after a number of editorial reprimands.
Don Rowlett, the one-time CEO, President of Ross Stores, sat in front of his management team in the early 1980’s exhorting the value of local media, and community newspapers in particular. He didn’t use the phrase “hyper-local” but everything else that was said in connection to that notion was not unlike the mantra we’re hearing from so many media (and advertising) professionals today. His parting words sounded something along these lines, “it has always been about local community and will always be so, regardless of what technological developments occur for individuals.”
There is something to be said about delivering the kind of news that national media outlets can’t be bothered with. Why else would Patch and so many local independent online journalists be jumping into the local media biz? It may sound corny (just like most of the local edit) but when it really comes down to it in the end, that’s what people really care about.
Now, what does this mean to those in the alternative news business? Publishers, editors, online product developers? Have you thought about your local audience lately? Where are they headed? How can you remain a part of their lives?