Learning to love the local

Many people have a love hate relationship when it comes to words prefixed with “local”. Local pub? Splendid! Local authority? Hmm. Local radio? Please stop! Unfair perhaps but local radio does often conjure images of over the hill DJs chatting to sad, lonely souls with few social skills and even fewer friends. But enough about me. And as for reading the local newspaper, that can be enough to put anyone off leaving the house with all those stories of wayward businesses, burst pipes, branches falling onto cars and teenagers roaming the streets smashing up bus stops. But not just any bus stops, oh no. We’re talking about the bus stop AT THE END OF YOUR ROAD! We’d rather not know, thanks. And as for local TV news, well it’s never really local enough is it? Who cares about Enfield or Sutton if you live in Twickenham? Nobody, that’s who.

But much as we might dismiss local media as all a little bit amateur and little bit, well, local, we also love it. After all, it’s all about us. It’s about our lives. Local radio, local papers? When they connect directly with us we love ’em. But our beloved interweb is one place where the meaning of local is still evolving. By its nature t’internet is not restricted by the reach of the FM radio transmitter or by how far the paper boy can cycle on his BMX. Everything is within reach. So if technology has led to global being the new local, then what’s happened to the old local? Well, it only went and got bloody localler didn’t it? Unfortunately the word “localler” is not yet in common parlance and so the growth of news, views, information about your immediate neighbourhood is known as hyperlocal.

Hyper in Twickenham
There are plenty of websites dedicated exclusively to Twickenham, St Margarets and even places far, far away like Teddington and Whitton. These can then be further categorised into different types: single issue campaigns, events listing sites, business directories, blogs, official stuff.

A slow day for localness

Most leave the coverage of pure news to those with the resources to cover it, namely the Richmond and Twickenham Times, but with the plethora of information sites out there it’s as if an articulated lorry full of “localness” has spilled its load across the information superhighway. There’s a lot of interesting stuff scattered all over the place but how on earth are you supposed to gather it up and make it useful? Here are a few pointers on what local means in the Twickenham area.

Listing sites
Apart from the obvious merits of the Richmond and Twickenham Times site with its extensive news and listings, there’s a bunch of others all doing the local thing. The most common are generally the franchised affairs who are all battling to be the number one stop for events and business information. One example is the recently launched Guide2Richmond.com which has put together a decent range of listings of local events and also has bits of news and the occasional review. It’s locally run based on a franchise from the slightly ambitiously titled “guide2theworld.com” group. There’s also the Best of Twickenham and Twickenham.co doing similar things. Meanwhile down the road Teddington People is doing the same for the TW11 residents. In this case the model is owned by Northcliffe Media, part of the Daily Mail Group. Clearly, some big players in the national arena are keen to exploit the potential of the local. All good stuff but the dilemma is always in balancing the local feel with the need to get the revenue streams up and running.

One great example of a local site which does have listings but also has news and a real hand-crafted feel to it is TeddingtonTown.co.uk. It’s been up and running for a year and has gained a lot of positive feedback for its mix of news and listings. Furthermore, using blogging software gives it a friendly feel. What’s its background? Well according to its creator, “There really wasn’t anything like it at the time so I thought it would be nice to work on something that benefited the town. There’s a lot that people living in Teddington who don’t know about their own town, the businesses that operate here and what events happen nearby”. And furthermore, not starting from revenue based model gives sites like TeddingtonTown the freedom to put community first, something that the internet is particularly good at.

Blog heads
As for other blogs in the area there are a few out there and some were established long before twickerati first went to press way back in May 2010. Not every local site needs to cover every local issue, some are done for the hell of it, others are created by locals to promote their views or their work and some, like wineanorak.com, might reference the local only in passing.

Politico’s paradise?
You might think that local political sites would provide a blogtastic mix of news and opinion. All three parties do have their local sites but they’re not yet blazing a trail. The Lib Dems, despite scoring lowest marks on the design front (that pale green has to go!) they probably score highest for up to date content. And if you Google hard enough there’s also a “Marie Celeste Web” of blog sites for the unsuccessful candidates at May’s general election – plenty of lively posts up to polling day and then silence.

Here’s to the future!
So whatever your preference local sites in one form or another are likely to be a growth area. Let’s all say they’re “trending” shall we? OK, let’s promise never ever to use that word again. Even proper journos have been commenting on what makes a good hyperlocal site and so, what the heck, why not promote what goes on in your neighbourhood. It’s where you spend your time living your life. So salute your local sites in your local area, raise a glass and cry “Up Yours!”

Links
Below are links to the sites mentioned and some that weren’t.

Local listings sites:
http://www.guide2richmond.com/
http://www.thebestof.co.uk/local/twickenham
http://www.twickenham.co/
http://www.teddingtonpeople.co.uk/home

Community listings and blog:
http://teddingtontown.co.uk/

Political:
http://www.twickenhamconservatives.com/
http://twickenhamlabour.org.uk
http://www.twickenhamlibdems.co.uk/

Blogs:
notjustagranny.wordpress.com – Nice bit of blogging covering a bit of everything written by a grandmother who is “not just a granny”. More of a regular visitor than a local in Twickenham.
www.wineanorak.com/wineblog/ – Wine writer, journalist, blogger and former Twickenham resident, Jamie Goode is the man behind the popular site http://www.wineanorak.com.
charlieswinbourne.wordpress.com/ – The blog of Charlie Swinbourne, a journalist, scriptwriter, and Twickenham resident. Creates works inspired by his background. His blog says, “I’m hard of hearing and grew up in a deaf family.” Not so much of the local stuff yet but links to his other work.

Hyperlocal
davidhiggerson.wordpress.com – Blog of multimedia journalist David Higgerson covering (on this link) hyperlocal news.

3 Comments

Filed under Features, Random Stuff

3 responses to “Learning to love the local

  1. Chris, thanks for the additional links.

    And a fair point about the compulsive commenters. Presumably you’re referring to the small handful of regulars who inhabit the comments section of every R&T Times story. It’s like a soap opera being played out one post at a time.

  2. George

    Interesting. Sites doing listings and directories always have a challenge to balance quantity with relevance. And allowing businesses to upload their own details can also risk jeopardising quality. It’s a tough, time consuming balance.

  3. http://www.stmgrts.org.uk/index.shtml

    The Lib Dem site (which I edit) is by a long way the largest at over 3000 pages of news stories going back to 2002. The page management software I use is quite old fashioned & doesn’t support comments. The green shading is in my opinion the best of the available choices, which are mostly variations on the party colours (orange and blue). Allowing comments is problematic as they are often offensive and sometimes libellous. There are some very strange people out there in the Twickenham blogosphere who comment compulsively wherever they can but never publish anything themselves.

    St Margaret’s has its own thriving community site, run by Peter Mahnke: http://www.stmgrts.org.uk/index.shtml which includes a weekly email alert. Twickenham Online is still going, in a little world of its own: http://www.twickenham-online.co.uk/

    The best way to keep up with the local news is to sign up to receive a daily (2 pm) email of headlines from the Richmond Times: http://www.richmondandtwickenhamtimes.co.uk/emailbulletins/