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Newspaper sales are under huge threat from rival media. One way of stemming the decline has been pioneered in the US and is now being looked at seriously in the UK and other countries. The idea is to reinvent the local paper as a series of freesheets, each serving a very small community, perhaps only one suburb or group of streets.

Such hyperlocal papers (another term is micropapers) would employ only one or two journalists; they would mainly rely on content provided by readers (citizen journalism, as the industry has rather grandly dubbed it). Such news sources would also be multimedia, with content being simultaneously made available on the Web, in some cases through podcasts or vodcasts (audio and video items available on demand), and by mobile phone. One aim is to provide a series of complementary outlets in which local firms and shops can advertise cheaply and effectively.

Those involved in producing community freesheets, many of which have been running for decades, will scarcely consider this to be innovative. The industry argues, however, that newspaper groups would bring professional marketing and journalism, together with cross-media expertise, that community groups frequently lack.

The term hyperlocal has been used in this sense since the late 1980s, but it has been restricted to industry sources until quite recently. Though most frequently turning up in relation to the Web and newspapers, it is also used, for example, in local radio. The word is formed using the common hyper- prefix from Greek huper, something over or beyond the normal. Hyperlocal Web sites are also often called placeblogs.

Media analysts agree that many readers are looking for hyperlocal content, but they say most citizen-journalism sites aren’t mature enough to tap into the lucrative local advertising markets.

Washington Post, 15 Jan. 2007

“Think Globally, Act Locally” has flourished for decades. But for plenty of media companies in 2007, the first part of that gospel will be eclipsed by a souped-up devotion to matters “hyperlocal.”

New York Times, 30 Dec. 2006

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Page created 03 Feb 2007