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Are top publishers the next big players in hyperlocal news?

While publishers are racing to target millennials and Gen Z through digital, an opportunity may exist in hyperlocal with a purpose.

USA TODAY NETWORK/Reuters Connect

By Chaymae Samir | Nov 18, 2019

Studies and articles on hyperlocal news outlets are full of examples of underperforming business models and failed ventures. Looking today at what was once named ‘’the future of journalism’’ and knowing what we now know, it is perhaps hard to grasp the hype around hyperlocal coverage. 

Hyperlocal journalism, sometimes called microlocal journalism, refers to covering events and topics on an extremely small, local scale. It gained traction during the early years of the social web when traditional local news outlets began to fail due to struggles with monetizing web-based content. The prediction was that hyperlocal online advertising would provide a very substantial financial return for local journalism sites.

Despite early enthusiasm, the hyperlocal news market has been unable to pivot to lucrative payouts. Funding, sustainability and visibility, seem to be the common challenges faced by publishers in this space blockading them from the anticipated successes of the medium. 

But these initial setbacks haven’t discouraged technology companies to invest in hyperlocal. From Google’s Bulletin to Hoodline’s $11M powered hyper-local, automated data newswire, interest still remains. And bigger titles are joining too, acknowledging that there is still a need for local news and information, especially among younger audiences. 

Beyond the postcode, millennials’ affinity with local content

According to the American Press Institute, millennials are more likely to follow news about their local community than celebrity or entertainment news. Millennials are not tied to a traditional news cycle and feel better about their local communities than the world at large. Without many of us noticing, hyperlocal news is interwoven into the daily fabric of our lives; in fact, nearly 50% of all Google searches have local intent and there’s been a 900% increase in search inquiries using the words “near me.”

That’s exactly what ABC Stations considered when launching ‘Localish’ for mobile millennials. The new brand focuses on hyper-local stories produced by the stations with a national appeal, distributed on digital and social platforms.

“We often say this brand is very much created by for and about millennials. The content is produced in a way that is digital, mobile and video first. There’s an addressable audience of about 63 million people. So there is a real need and intent for this type of content,” says Jennifer Mitchell, senior VP content development, ABC Owned Television Station Group.

Another publisher championing hyperlocal content is Reuters Connect’s partner, Atlas. 

Atlas news agency, belonging to Mediaset España Comunicación was established in 1998. In its first five years, it became the leading provider of television news for local media. Since its inception at the Telecinco headquarters, Atlas was born as a multimedia and multisport agency, covering international news, events, politics, economy and sports.

Related: Watch how HuffPost UK hired people from local outlets into senior roles in their newsroom

Gen Z ‘’emotionally fatigued’’ with hard news topics

A recent study from the American Psychological Association, revealed that Gen Z audiences are becoming increasingly emotionally fatigued with hard news topics including immigration, sexual assault, and mass shootings.

“Current events are clearly stressful for everyone in the country, but young people are really feeling the impact of issues in the news, particularly those issues that may feel beyond their control,” says Arthur Evans, APA’s chief executive officer.

Shying away from divisive and polarizing ‘’hard news’’ topics typically relayed in national news cycles, younger audiences might feel more interested in local news topics containing more prosocial and interpersonal themes. 

Africa24 is the leading Pan African content producer. Covering all 55 African countries, at the big events, profiling the big hearts, big stars and the next big thing, AFRICA24 focuses on positive African narratives. 

Solutions reporting for positive engagement

Focusing on positive local news could pay dividends for hyperlocal outlets. According to a recent survey by Reuters of all age-groups, 32% of respondents worldwide say they actively avoid the news. Compared with two years ago, people say they avoid the news because it has a negative effect on their mood (58%) or because they feel powerless to change events (40%).

In this regard, solution journalism has emerged as a powerful storytelling strategy to cut out negativity and build inspirational narratives. For publishers, solutions reporting promises long term engagement, brand loyalty and monetization potential.

Reuters Connect’s partner ANI is the perfect example of juxtaposing hyperlocal content with the demand for more solution-based storytelling from younger audiences.

ANI, India

Asian News International (ANI) provides news coverage from South Asia to Reuters Connect. ANI content includes politics, business, health, technology, travel and entertainment news and features with regional perspectives.

Related: How can I create loyalty with Reuters solutions journalism?

Beyond the hype, is hyperlocal good for business?

Considering that 43% of media buyers report avoiding news content altogether, hyperlocal content can offer an opportunity for a dual revenue stream and an opportunity for audiences to avoid national news stories which can often feel overwhelming and beyond individual control. 

Localis, ABC’s hyperlocal brand, relies on revenues from platforms such as Facebook Watch and local advertising. 

“In addition to being the market leaders in their respective DMAs they’re also a tremendous megaphone,” says Wendy McMahon, president of ABC Owned Stations. “Because of the connection that we have with our communities, our audiences trust that when we invite them to participate and be a part of something, we tend to get support there.”

Related: How Brazilian media giant Grupo RBS increased subscriptions by becoming ‘local for locals’

Moreover, studies have found that reading solutions-focused or positive news stories prompts audiences to spend 30 seconds more on the article page. So what if that increased attention was associated with the power of a digital story-based format?  

This would result in a winning formula for generating engaging and share-worthy content such as the one produced by Reuters Connect’s partner Africa 24.

Gen Z’s 8-second filter, not an attention problem

You’ve probably heard that Gen Z has the attention span of about 8 seconds, compared to millennials’ 12 seconds. But in reality, Gen Z has adapted to quickly sorting through the information overload they receive on a daily basis. 

That means publishers have less than 10 seconds to make an impact, but once their attention is grabbed, Gen Z can become intensely committed and focused.

USA Today is one of Reuters Connect’s most ‘local’ partners, providing hyperlocal coverage of events in the USA, from pageants and fairs to mayoral elections and court cases. 

REUTERS CONNECT/USA TODAY NETWORK

It’s worth remembering that before the age of 15, the average Gen Z consumer has seen around 200,000 marketing messages. In this regard, visually stimulating content will help you stand out. Reuters Connect offers over a million pictures covering small-town America, that publishers can use on social platforms such as Instagram and Snapchat.

For instance, teens are very careful about how they use Instagram, favoring higher quality images. Reuters Connect’s hyperlocal images from world-class publishers can be used to create gifs, stories and so much more, thus making your audiences feel more engaged and connected to your content.

Related: How Al-Jazeera English uses Instagram to grow followers 

Reuters Connect provides audiences with a compelling mix of national, international and hyperlocal news stories. Offering publishers the opportunity to diversify their content, Reuters Connect is an essential aid to storytelling across the full gamut of the news cycle and providing your audience with new and exciting perspectives. 

Want to include hyperlocal news into your content mix? Trial Reuters Connect to experiences our partners hyperlocal coverage