BethMellor’s Weblog

Postgraduate journalism, news and views.

Microsites: the future of local journalism?

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PR Week’s ‘Regional PR’ supplement included an interesting article this week on the growing importance of community-focused microsites in British media.

ABC have now started tracking user numbers to local news websites, such as Newcastle’s ‘Journal Live’, which runs 22 microsites for specific towns and communities in the area. The ABC results show that local microsites are netting impressive totals of up to 270,000 users/month.

poscast-logo11Indeed, the website our City University journalism class set up to cover news in Hackney achieved more than 4,000 hits after just a week. Demand for local news clearly still exists, even if demand for local newspapers doesn’t.

Yet whilst it is encouraging to see that the web is becoming a growth area for local journalism, a sustainable business model is desperately needed if microsites are to survive.

There are two possible solutions. Microsites either need to become more commercially-savvy, and prove to businesses that they are a viable way of reaching specific local and demographic communities. The danger with this is that including too much advertising on online news sites is a big turn-off to readers.

Alternatively, microsites could gain funding through collaboration with local Councils – PR Week reports that Newcastle City Council director of communications is considering investing in Journal Live as an alternative to the council’s own website. Of course, microsites would have to ensure that this type of arrangement would not affect their editorial independence.  

If microsites can develop a solid business model, the future for local journalism looks brighter than the recent spate of closures and redundancies at local newspapers suggests.

Written by bethmellor

April 18, 2009 at 5:34 pm

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