The debate over the viability of hyperlocal journalism continues to heat up, fueled most recently by news of more lay-offs at Washington DC-based local news startup TBD.com. While I’ll leave the debate to seasoned journalism experts like Matthew Ingram and Alan Mutter, I will say that I’m in the glass-is-half-full camp and leave it at that.
For me, the debate raises a different question: Does the hyperlocal news model bring value to the corporate online newsroom?
Let’s look at the similarities…
By most common definitions, hyperlocal newsrooms are determined by geographic locations and aim to provide highly granular news of a defined neighborhood or town. They may have a tiny staff — one or two people plus interns or citizen contributor, and in most cases, are supported by local advertising.
Now let’s look at the corporate newsroom. Putting aside the literal meaning of coverage within geographic boundaries for a second, the coverage that corporate newsrooms deliver is indeed hyperlocal. The online newsroom is intended to provide high granular news of your virtual neighborhood and community –or as I mentioned in my last post, to provide information to the people with the most at stake in your community. It too is often managed by a tiny staff and has internal contributors.
So, there are strong similarities between what hyperlocal news sites aim to achieve and what corporate news sites stand to deliver.
And, while hyperlocal doesn’t mean “only coverage by citizen contributors,” there’s no doubt that citizen or community contributions make up an important part. At the end of the day, the real value of hyperlocal newsrooms is the deliberate focus and relevance of coverage to the audience and community. In other words, making it hyperpersonal.
It’s not about press releases, fact sheets and executive bios. It’s about news and industry or global perspectives, personal interest stories, trends and opinions. When companies think beyond press releases and static news announcements and think about the stories that impact their communities, the online newsroom becomes a more valuable, reliable and engaging source of information.
Take the following for example…
ISC Newsroom, the online newsroom for the Imperial Sugar Company doesn’t just cover company happenings. It provides news and perspective on things that impact the community, such as changes in legislation that impacts the sugar industry, the future of genetically modified sugar beets, and even shared recipes. Imagine the endless ways ISC can use some of this information to support business deals with manufacturers or suppliers, support discussions with investors or partners, or simply add value to the industry.
Intel Free Press posts special interest stories that relate to computing. For example, here’s a story about how the world’s first computer may be older than you think. You’ll notice Intel isn’t even mentioned in that story. It’s simply an interesting story that the Intel community could relate to. That’s cool.
The Cisco newsroom features industry stories by reputable business and tech reporters. Stephen Wildstrom, tech reporter for Business Week contributes a few stories a month. Hmm… BusinessWeek reporter on the masthead for your corporate newsroom? That’s taking the journalistic integrity and caliber to whole new level.
In these examples, the companies and newsrooms demonstrate a desire and effort to practice objectivity, stories and content that adds value to their community, and fair play beyond just marketing their products and solutions. That goes a long way in developing trust.
Engaging the citizen contributor or journalists for corporate newsrooms isn’t as common today but something I bet we’ll start to see a whole lot more of. At the very basic level, employee blogs and guest blogs from customers, as well as transparent, live dialog on corporate newsrooms through aggregated Twitter feeds or Facebook posts can be an elementary form of citizen or community journalism. In the future, we’ll see more substantial engagement.
How do you make your newsroom more hyperlocal? It starts with the news, stories and content you deliver. Plan your newsroom editorial calendar around your customer and community interests and be original, objective, relevant and timely. And, don’t underestimate the value of enlisting the expertise of a journalist!