More postcodes: hyperlocales, postcodes, and regional variations

I must be sounding slightly obsessed with postcodes at the moment…

UK postcodes are expressed as follows: B42 2SU. The postcode district in this example is ‘B42’. Frequently postcode districts are used as part of the identity of a hyperlocal website (e.g. expressed through logos and URLs) as a shorthand way of describing their hyperlocale, or their patch.

I just did a quick count on the Openly Local database [usual caveats of incomplete data apply], and ten percent of listings for England featured a postcode description within their listing within their name, URL, or location data.

Although clusters within Birmingham, London and Hull were evident, the convention of linking the hyperlocal brand a to a postcode district was pretty spread throughout England.

Interestingly the convention did not cross into Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland (with the exception of one Scottish hyperlocal website). So what have the devolved regions got against the postcode? Or rather, why are the English so keen on managing their sense of space through them?

A third of the English hyperlocals that referred to a postcode within their branding belonged to the same aggregated platform that had imposed postcode based delineation upon the publishers, so that accounts for some but not all of it.

Hyperlocal and ‘postcode areas’

‘Postcode areas’ are often used to define the space – the hyperlocale as I’ve taken to calling it – which hyperlocal blogs serve, for example Sutton Coldfield Local used to be the B72 Blog and that sense of space is still fairly implicit in its coverage despite the name change (see also B31 Voices and many many others). I’m trying to wrap my head around what we mean by a postcode area, and what that means in terms of scale and reach. This table is useful in clarifying the various levels of the postcode system and what that means in terms of hyperlocal audience.

Average population size for postcode geographical areas

Average population

Area name

England & Wales

Scotland

Northern Ireland

Postcode area (e.g. YO)

500,000

400,000

1,750,000

Postcode district (e.g. YO10)

22,500

12,000

21,500

Postcode sector (e.g. YO10 5)

600

600

600

Full postcode (e.g. YO10 5DG)

40

40

40

So interestingly, most times I hear people talk about postcode area they mean a postcode district, and a postcode district is probably larger than I thought it was…