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Growing hyperlocal news sector forms network to bid for share of state local media support

By Dominic Ponsford

A new body has been formed to represent hyperlocal news publishers which could help them bid for a share of state support.

The network for hyperlocal news providers plans to help the micro-publishers work with the BBC on its scheme to fund 150 reporters who will report on local councils.

The new body could also help hyperlocal news websites bid for a share of tens of millions a year which local councils spend placing statutory notices in local newspapers.

It is being set up by Cardiff University’s Centre for Community Journalism which estimates there are 500 hyperlocal news publishers in the UK.

The publishers of the websites MyWelshpool and MyNewtown in Wales, which were launched in 2010 and now employ four journalists on a part-time basis, are set to join the network.

Graham Breeze, co-founder of the websites, said: “We floated the idea of establishing a national body back in 2013 when we were chosen by Nesta, the UK Innovation Foundation, to be part of its Destination Local programme.

“While there was a great deal of support for our proposals the timing was probably not right. But the timing is perfect today with hyperlocal news sites popping up all over the country, changing the local media landscape and offering new opportunities.”

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Breeze, former editor-in-chief of NWN Media in North Wales, said a single body was needed to galvanise the online sector.

He said: “We have to lobby Government, along with county and town councils, for greater recognition of the hyperlocal sector. We will never be able to attract their revenues as individuals but together as a national body we will be able to convince procurement departments that there is another alternative to print.

“The hyperlocal industry would change overnight if only a small amount of Government and Council spend on public notices came our way. Forming a national body would ensure we can demand fair treatment.

“A hyperlocal news industry is not the future. It is here now, springing up in every corner of the UK with viewing and readership figures spiralling upwards while newspaper sales continue to crash downwards.”

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