Why hyperlocal “fail” is sometimes actually hyperlocal “win”

I’ve just read an article called “5 reasons your local blog will fail” (http://www.pbs.org/idealab/2010/09/5-mistakes-that-make-local-blogs-fail259.html ). It’s an interesting read but it assumes profit as the only way to benchmark success of a local blog and it assumes advertising as being the way you make money out of your blog. Some local blogs are genuine community projects, and need to be benchmarked against non financial criteria (reach, engagement, number of contributors). Others may close or downscale (so ostensibly fail) because their principals are snapped up by media companies who recognise their talent or other opportunities that pay the bills. You could see the latter as a failure in terms of project longevity, but if the hyperlocal journalist set up their website as a calling card to find a better job then their project has been a success in terms of their own indicators. Think about the Bournville Village blog and Created in Birmingham. Both blogs gave a voice to interesting people who then got drawn off to do other things. In the case of CiB it happened twice, and after a fallow period, the project is now going strong after one of the original guys took control back. Bournville Village is interesting firstly because it’s founder got snapped up to launch hyper local projects for the Guardian and secondly because in it’s 2nd iteration it is thriving despite having many of the “fail” hallmarks from the article. It’s a one man gig, and that man, my BCU colleague Dave Harte, isn’t afraid to invest time in more mundane local issues (he’s a geek for gritting plans for example). I’m not sure how much he makes from ads on the blog, but he doesn’t appear to be giving up his day job yet. He’s getting something else from the blog altogether. I think it might be called “fun”.

That said, the general idea of each of the 5 reasons for failure are sound. It’s hard to sustain something without a support team, and it’s tough to gain an audience if they don’t know about you and if you don’t speak to their interests. I blame technology for this. It’s so easy to set something up in terms of engaging with the tools that it’s easy to miss the fundamental questions at the heart of what you are doing and why.

By Jon Hickman

Hi, I'm Jon. I teach and research digital culture, social media and new media practice at Birmingham City University. Find out more about me with this lovely CV: http://uk.linkedin.com/in/jonhickman Find out about my work at the Birmingham Centre for Media & Cultural Research: http://interactivecultures.org