The BBC should link to hyperlocal websites to improve its local news coverage, a new study has recommended.
Charity Nesta, which carried out the research, said the linking would also counteract the negative impact the corporation has on local news outlets.
The study, Destination Local, sought to understand how hyperlocal news organisations can increase their reach and impact.
As part of the research, Nesta funded the development of mobile-enabled hyperlocal projects across the UK, provided each with up to £50,000 last July.
Among its five main recommendations, after more than a year of research, was that the BBC should do more to assist hyperlocal projects “as a matter of priority”.
“The BBC should link from its websites to a broader range of hyperlocal media organisations," it said.
“By opening its website to more external links to trusted stand-alone hyperlocal services, as well as to websites operated by newspaper groups, the BBC can address concerns about the lack of ‘local’ news on bbc.co.uk, without needing to make significant investments in local staff and offices.
“Audiences would gain through having access to a wider range of more granular content, while the services themselves would gain through increased traffic to their services.”
It added: “BBC Online might counteract its negative impact on hyperlocal providers because of its search engine ratings by significantly increasing its click-throughs to hyperlocal services where it is editorially-relevant to do so.”
In addition, the study suggested hyperlocal media should consider partnerships with larger media organisations to improve traffic. It also said that organisations should consider forming or joining an industry association.
It emphasised the importance of working well on mobile devices citing the fact that the projects received 30-45 per cent of traffic from the smartphones and tablets.
The research suggested that HTML5 mobile-friendly services, which can work across multiple platforms, may be preferable to apps, which cost more money to make.
Of the ten projects – VC – Loddon Eye, the Kentish-towner, Local Edge, Local Say, Locali, MyTown, Our Town, Papur Dre, The City Talking/Solomon and URTV – not one made a profit on a stand-alone basis.
The research showed that selling online advertising is difficult and suggested that having print editions would be beneficial financially and also help to improve awareness of websites.