Hyperlocal citizen journalism sites not getting much traction

Tom Grubisich reviews the major hyperlocal citizen journalism efforts and finds them wanting. None of them seem to be doing a great job of generating interesting, useful content. Some are worse than others.

For my local friends and neighbors, here’s what Tom writes about the Northwest Voice, the hyperlocal site that started it all here in Bakersfield (disclosure for those who don’t know — I used to work for The Bakersfield Californian, but I was not involved with this product at all):

NorthwestVoice.com has been one of the mostly frequently, and favorably, cited examples of how grassroots journalism can transform the Web on the community level. But reality doesn’t match the PR. Most of NorthwestVoice’s hard news is written by paid reporters for the companion print product, while most of the soft stuff (some of it very soft) comes from volunteers.

Even after nearly two and a half years of operation, and a steady stream of positive media mentions, NorthwestVoice.com still struggles to attract traffic and generate productive conversations among users. It ranks 1,107,759 in reach on Alexa, which means it barely registers a traffic pulse. In one of the site’s featured “Discussions,” someone asked, on July 13: “Who’s responsible for providing public facilities, i.e. a post office, library, etc. for the Northwest?” Three months later, the question remains unanswered. Ten of the 17 discussion articles, dating back to November 2005, had no comments.

I’ve always been a little uneasy with these pure-play citizen journalism sites. I’ve wanted to see them work, and would have gladly given (and may still give) one of them a try, but as comments at the end of Tom’s article mention these sites fall easy prey to the 1-percent rule, which I’ve written about before. It is just going to be damn hard to generate enough local content, especially quality local content, from a small user base.

None of the newspaper-affiliated sites come off well in Tom’s report.

I do have to say, however, if you want an example of how to do citizen journalism right from a newspaper perspective, take a look at Bakersfield.com and the Your Words* section. And see also my previous post about Steve Swenson*. Integration, not segregation.

*I’m not taking any sort of credit for Your Words or the great job Steve Swenson is doing.

P.S. Nick, I still say you should contribute local music scene articles to Your Words.

[tags]citizen journalism, hyperlocal, newspapers, bakersfield[/tags]

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