Monday, 15 September 2008

The digital revolution puts local back on the map


The world wide web has made the whole wide world a very small place.

At the click of a mouse button, I can be anywhere in the world, chatting to people across the globe, checking out the traffic on the main artery roads of some far flung city ... the world wide web is my oyster.

But the net has done something else. It has brought together communities.

People are now drawn together under the banner of 'community'. Networks of shared interest dominate the Internet. Pre-web, people with niche interests would have to sit alone in their one bed bedsit satisfying their hobby. But now, the web (for the good or the bad) has brought these people together.

Online, community comes in two guises:
* Social
* Geographic

It is geographic which will be the saviour of many a local newspaper. There is no more a social network than a local community. Nearly three decades after Maggie T proclaimed community dead - it's back, but this time with a vengeance.

People want to know what's going on in their neighbourhood. Social networking is the web 2.0 equivalent to curtain twitching. Your neighbours are on Facebook. They are on Twitter. They probably even Plurk. And guess what ... they may even be talking about you.

That's got to be worth a momentary curtain twitch.

But as the Internet continues its domination of the media, national and even regional omnibus newspapers will struggle to capture the attention of a large scale audience. The future will be in the hands of the hyper local newspapers. It is these titles which can boast hyper local content which is of hyper local interest to their niche audiences.

Many of them are the local weekly newspapers who have now embraced the digital revolution and who are producing hyper local websites. These are the titles who don't have an army of staff, and who can't all boast the expert correspondents in economics, health, education, etc, but who can boast the expert correspondents in what is going on next door, in the next street, in your local council.

It will be these titles, these journalists, together with local neighbourhood correspondents, who will thrive in the digital revolution, leaving the larger regionals and the nationals to fight it out among themselves with photos of Jordan or Posh Spice.

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