are hyperlocal blogs still pointless?

Three years ago at the Hyper WM unconference a press officer kicked off a heated debate with bloggers by claiming that he didn't see the point in talking to them. Three years on he's just signed-up a blogger to his press release distribution list. So, has his personal views changed? Errr, not exactly...

by Mark Allen

A few years ago I went to an unconference in Walsall and was met by some very closed minded bloggers – very dismissive of traditional media.

Just lately, bloggers and other non-journalists who have been posting comments in the media spotlight.

I'm so glad that a Tory Lord is looking to prosecute some of those people. It is time social media played by the rules the rest of us have to - I thought I would put forward my point of view.

Other delegates at the unconference seemed shocked that I said I would always give print and traditional media  like radio, and TV more priority if I was on deadline for a number of outlets and had an number of enquiries to answer.

To me it is a no-brainer. In my experience bloggers are the the online version of jazz musicians.

I was struck by how many people – mostly local bloggers – seemed to write off the newspaper and local radio industries their online partners as yesterday’s news.  It is obvious they have never tried to get a message out to a large group of people.

I do value blogs. While waiting for a double lung transplant I blogged about my wait for the operation. And blogs were new and exciting to the public. So much so I was in national magazines. Newspapers and radio stations hadn’t heard of a blog. 

Local bloggers should be treated like people on Twitter and Facebook. 

We should respond if asked and actively send them releases if asked and reply to posts.

But how important are they in the scheme of things? At the moment – very few are.

I love the idea of hyperlocal  publishing and think it is a real return to the local newpaper ethos of the industry in its prime.

But I only have one on my press release list – And that is someone I proactively contacted and asked if they wanted to receive them. News is a two way commodity.

Social and new media has enriched our knowledge of what people think and how they come to conclusions and is a very good thing on the whole.

I will always answer enquiries, but I would prioritise The Sun, with potentially millions of readers - paper and online - over a local blogger with 10 hits a day on their site. This brought indignation, but for me it is giving the public value for money for my time.

I will re-hash some stats I wrote in a previous article. 44 per cent of households still buy a daily newspaper.  Out of more than 833 enquires to me last year, more than 72 per cent came from the local press – and the resulting stories appeared in the papers or their websites.

The others came from radio, TV, magazines and specialist websites – none from the so-called rising army of bloggers.

Look through the news threads on Twitter – see how many link to stories originating from newspapers. I have yet to have one media enquiry from a blogger – although I would welcome them.

Our ads still work best on radio and newspaper including their online presence. We use different medium for different audiences.

Bloggers came to the conference armed with statistics on declining sales of newspapers. But failed to grasp most news sites are run by traditional media such as the Daily Mail and the BBC website.

In our area the main online news sources are run by the local papers.

Readership is stronger than ever, but just migrating online the same as how we consume other  products. 

This may not be the case for much longer – but we can’t live in the future.

At the moment new media has it easy. I bet Leveson has no recommendation about social media – even though a lot worse comes out on there than in traditional media. But over time this will change

 Mark Allen is a press officer for Halton Borough Council.

Picture credit 

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