Readers don’t click onto hyperlocal news websites for commentary on international issues. Most don’t visit for the coverage of professional sports teams, either. According to a series of studies by the Media Insight Project, an initiative of the American Press Institute and the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, readers are motivated to subscribe because they want access to “local news” and “useful articles.” (The survey also found that 31% of subscribers are motivated by a genuine interest in supporting local journalism.)
It should come as no surprise that people put local news above all else when they list what they want from hyperlocal publishers.
In a recent survey by the National Newspaper Association, 84% of people said they want to see local news, information, and obituaries. Sixty-one percent of respondents in the NNA survey like to read about school issues, and 46% enjoy the local sports coverage. Editorials, letters to the editor, and public notices were also valuable in the eyes of local readers.
Public notices can easily be collected from local government websites, giving publishers an easy source of free content.
Turning readers into reporters is another way to satisfy readers and generate low-cost content. Publishers can repurpose the top comments on articles each week into a Community Voices section, and they can ask readers to submit local problems—like potholes and broken stoplights—to publish in a regular Fix-It Report.
Just 2% of readers said they want to see state and federal news in local publications, which should be a clear indication to hyperlocal publishers that they can axe any non-localized content without fearing the repercussions.
Readers who fall into the millennial demographic—between the ages of 18 and 37—are primed to want their news from digital sources. According to a survey by Elite Daily and the University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications, 34.5% of millennials say they use and prefer “online-only news sites.”
When they click onto their favorite online-only news sites, millennials want to read about the environment, equal rights and pay, poverty, and access to health care.
Hyperlocal publishers can put a local spin on any of these topics by covering the groups working to make change in their own locales. For example, instead of regurgitating what was said in a city council meeting focused on land use issues, a reporter could ask for a comment from a community environmental group. Many of these groups already have their own data or reports about various topics, which can easily be copy/pasted into articles. Rather than headlining the piece, “City Council Votes on Land Use Changes,” the publisher could put together a package with the headline, “How Proposed Land Use Changes Will Impact Local Bicyclists.” These types of expanded articles lend themselves to insights from local thought leaders, who are then likely to share the articles with their followers on social media.
One of the most common times for readers to subscribe to local publications is immediately after moving into town, according to the Media Insight Project’s study.
Hyperlocal publishers can meet the needs of these recent transplants by offering more content related to moving into their communities. New subscriber packages might include coupons for items that people often need when they move into new homes, like mattresses or appliances. Dedicated City Guide sections are also useful for new residents, particularly when they include articles on the best school districts and real estate listings.
To recap, here are a few takeaways about what readers want to see in hyperlocal publications:
- Local news, information, and obituaries
- Public notices
- Reader generated content
- Coverage of local groups and organizations
- Moving sections or “city guides” with information for new residents
If you’ve got questions about developing the type of hyperlocal publication that generates strong reader engagement, feel free to reach out to the Web Publisher PRO team for information on how we can help.