Back in 1995, when The Daily Telegraph launched the first online newspaper, The Electronic Telegraph, the notion that online news would ever become more important than a daily national would have been met with trepidation. Now, with the circulation of national newspapers dropping 20% in the last five years, that idea doesn’t seem so outrageous.
According to The Guardian many national newspapers are suffering notable decreases in circulation. The Independent being the worst with a loss of 44.67% between March 2011 and 2012, although this does coincide with the launch of the capsule I edition.
Regardless of sterling efforts to revolutionise online news from organisations like The Guardian or The Telegraph, news outlets have found it increasingly difficult to monetize online news. This has lead to news organisations having to think of new and innovative ways of delivering online and mobile news.
One such way is an application being developed right now. Due to be launched in February 2013, the app will allow users to access hyper-local news – catered specifically to their interests – through a web browser or mobile device. Drawing inspiration from news apps like Flipboard, users are able to locate news items or events happening simply by clicking on an area of a map.
The app will allow users to interact with and submit content in a way similar to tagging content on a social networking site, such as Facebook. It is being developed by Hebe Media. Simon Zimmerman, Director says: “The service we are creating operates on the basis that hyper-local news content already exists, in abundance. People simply copy the URL where that content exists, drop it into our system, add a geo-tag, add a time stamp, add a tag and click publish.” A geo tag is a way of labeling content by its geographical area, for example, if an event is happening in Millennium Square, you are able to tag this as the area, allowing users to search for the content by area.
The app will have similar content to the site it is born from, Leeds Online. Established by Lee Hicken, the site covers a diverse amount of topics, from sport and local government policy to the local fashion scene. The site is aimed at 18 to 30 year olds and as such is written for them, Hicken says: “We think that young people should know about matters affecting them, but nobody writes political news for young people. At the end of the day, political issues affect young people too, so they should get political news too.”
The funding for the application has been gained from an investment charity called Nesta. It has invested in 10 different organisations across the UK for similar developments. Named ‘Destination Local’ the aim of the investments is to ‘understand and stimulate the development of a UK hyperlocal media sector’. A spokesperson for Nesta, Sarah Reardon said: “All the proposals are new ways of delivering hyperlocal media through mobile devices. This is because mobile technologies offer two important drivers for hyperlocal media: firstly, more people, more often are using mobile to access rich content services via the internet and, increasingly, these platforms are location-aware. We want to prototype services that make the most of these opportunities. For example, augmented reality, GPS tracking, mobile social media.”
One feature of the app that developers are most excited about is the “time-wheel”. This allows users to filter content using a timeline, as all news stories have a date attached to them, users are able to organise and search news in specific areas as and when it happens. The app will also feature past news content, allowing users to scroll back through time and track what was happening in their area before they were even born. Zimmerman believes this is important as it allows users to connect with their city and learn its history. “News, by its very nature, is time sensitive and one feature of the app, an interactive “time-wheel”, will let users filter content along a timeline. This opens up the possibility for our app to encourage a news archive, with a community of users curating the city’s story; past (“check out the front page of the YEP on 01.01.1901), present (“The Leeds Lights are switched on!”) and future (“Leeds Arena to open today”).”
A light version of the app will be launching in February, shortly followed by a full version with richer content and functionality.