Can Young People’s Social Media Savvy Help ‘Hyperlocal’ News Thrive?
Last year, Homicide Watch D.C.'s compilation of stories, primary sources and statistics about violent crime in D.C.was awarded the Online News Association’s Knight Public Service Award for propelling the social issue to the forefront by employing hyperlocal tactics—housing rich data under one hub on a single issue happening in a specific geographical area.
After the Newtown shooting, Slate created a database of victims of gun violence filterable by gender or age range totaling, thus far, 1,013 victims. Slate suggested that the crowd-sourced interactive was a call to spread knowledge, counting “people who are paying attention” to cull the necessary data from their neighborhoods.
Though hyperlocal journalism was discounted and predicted to be littered with failure several years ago due to low participatory and interest rates, the examples above coupled with trends in social media point to a possible future for super-concentrated and geographically-focused data gathering—and hint at potential to instigate change.
Social Media Producer Danielle Odiamar has been trying to incorporate hyperlocal projects into her work at the Syracuse’s Daily Orange. “There’s no way to predict what people are going to want and the nature of hyperlocal is that you can have a great, well-executed idea but if it’s not what your audience wants it’s not successful,” Odiamar told Campus Progress.
Some projects have been successful, such as Groupon, Patch by AOL and Foursquare, while others, such as OhSoWe, started by OpenTable Founder Chuck Templeton, have floundered. Perhaps the similarity of Templeton's site to Craigslist accounted for part of its decline, but recently, with news sources bringing social issues into the hyperlocal scene, there’s hope for a different outcome.
“People care about what’s going on in the community around them whether it’s news about local government and education issues or a new restaurant or yoga studio,” Odiamar says. “I think hyperlocal has very strong potential but like all good things it will take time and a few great one’s to set a certain standard that will generate success.”
Since 2010, user participation on social media has gone up significantly. In the course of a year, the number of registered users on Twitter jumped 100 million according to Search Engine Journal, doubling their total numbers since the company went public. Technology in Business cited 62 percent of Twitter users are in the 18-34 group range. The outpouring of young, connected individuals may suggest a growth of hyperlocal usage, but a rise in hyperlocal success has not been as evident.
Aditi Pai is a reporter for Campus Progress.