We’ve been raised on the belief that good audience segmentation drives good marketing and good results. Add to that the feeling that local markets and local advertising might have weathered the economic trends better than others ... at least to a degree.

Together, this leaves us agreeable to the statement made by many that “hyperlocal” content will drive engagement.

At the INMA Audience Summit in Chicago in early October, we heard two speakers underscore the idea that hyperlocal isn’t the end in itself. Rather, it’s hyper-relevance — wherever that happens to be geographically.

  • Matthew Sanders, general manager of Deseret Connect, spoke about an audience development road map that spans platforms at Deseret News. He was the first speaker of the two days to comment that hyperlocal won’t deliver the promised results if we don’t make it hyper-relevant.

    As Deseret Connect takes its reporting on issues of family and faith national and global, it’s moving from local to relevant, yet keeping the hyperfocus. This strategy’s success is illustrated by the fact that the Deseret News Sunday national print edition is the fastest growing U.S. newspaper.

  • On the second day, Paul Hood, digital director of Archant London, shared the success of London24.com. Paul took the audience through a wonderful turnaround story of 14 hyperlocal publications — so hyperlocal, in fact, that if something didn’t physically happen in the publication’s town, it wouldn’t be published, even if the news was made by the Queen.

    London24 created a forum for the integration of hyperlocal and hyper-relevant. Yes, residents wanted their local news, but it wasn’t enough to drive engagement. London24 increased the relevance by adding topics of keen interest to readers across markets.

    Success for London24 is marked by growing from concept to London’s second-largest newsmedia brand in 18 months and a doubling of unique visitors in just four months.

Reader engagement, and for many newspapers that translates directly into a prospective subscriber’s willingness to pay, is based on more than local content. Local content, while critical, can be a commodity.

It’s the ability to present that local content in a relevant light, or to identify the news and information that is uniquely valuable to a newspaper’s readership. To echo a thought shared by Matthew Sanders at the conference, every newspaper must identify the content that it is uniquely qualified to present and on which its staff can report unlike any other.

A newspaper’s leadership needs to identify and agree on the content that is hyper-relevant to their readership before they begin work on a digital subscriber strategy. Once that’s done, promoting and charging for uniquely relevant content will be the easier of the tasks.