Hyperlocal content started out as the new hope for journalism.
Like many Internet trends, the second wave is working.
When our opposition turned their backs on community reporting and sold out of local newspapers, the Herald Sun — operating Australia’s second biggest pay-walled Web site — teamed up with the local news group at Leader (publisher of 26 newspapers and seven regional Web sites) to double down on local journalism.
With publishers like the Daily Mail going global instead of local, we played to our strengths by building on a strong presence in the city we covered.
We streamlined the CMS and content planning so journalists from Leader newsrooms around the city could work more closely with their metro counterparts, making it easier for content to be shared between newsrooms.
By incorporating Leader content into the Herald Sun Web site, maintaining its own branding, we could also get content more easily to consumers.
And our readers loved it.
The colourful neighbourhood dispute or local hero story resonated outside the suburbs they originated from.
A good yarn is a good yarn, and well-written stories about local shopping strips or council injustices struck a chord.
Bringing hyperlocal news to a bigger metro audience resulted in phenomenal growth.
Leader has doubled its pageviews over two years. Leader’s social media engagement has grown almost 700%, which means stories are starting to reach people who were traditionally not local newspaper readers. Leader’s most successful Facebook pages are becoming pseudo-community hubs, where people turn for news and local information in real time.
Local Footy has become Leader’s most successful page — and often the highest-rating section — quickly connecting with Melbourne’s footy-mad population through its extensive coverage of 13 leagues across the city.
It has also opened up a new audience for Leader, which has traditionally been dominated by the female 25-55 demographic.
With Local Footy kicking goals, Leader has quickly connected with a male audience, with more than 50% being male 18-34.
Leader News is no longer a weekly newspaper publisher, instead transforming into a daily news organisation with a digital first mentality. It has built a much closer relationship with the Herald Sun over the past 18 months, offering its grassroots stories to complement the state-wide and national approach of the Herald Sun.
While operating separate newsrooms, we work closely so as not to cover the same stories. Embedding Leader digital staff in the Herald Sun newsroom means better communication and offers more visibility of Leader stories for the Herald Sun digital team.
We are not alone in the News Corporation family of publishers in Australia in integrating metro and local journalism.
Adelaide Advertiser and Messenger have combined forces with strong results in driving new digital subscriptions, Newslocal continues to drive popular content for the Daily Telegraph in Sydney, and the Courier Mail and Quest have enormous reach throughout Queensland.
Outside the local journalism comes the provision of local services and listings.
We are seeing publishers trying to achieve a hyperlocal mix of content and information, as the traditional community newspaper has always provided with everything from council information to crime reporting and what’s on.
Some are investing in community social networks and information sites to complement their local city-based content offerings. News Corp Australia has several projects underway in this space.
What the combination of Leader and the Herald Sun has proven is that local content is popular with a wider audience.
It provides new audiences to the local publisher and depth of content and local reach to the metro masthead.
We understand, reflect, and champion our community better than anyone else and our audience is responding.
For the reader it means unrivaled local coverage. Melbourne people have a strong interest in global affairs and the world around them, and we fill that need. They are also very proud of where they live and parochial; and we reflect that.
We are seeing strong results by looking inwards rather than outwards.