Social media meet local journalism: two British news organisations examples

The BBC wants to have a totally digital presence on events as they happen. The recent introduction of Local Live has this aim, using heavily social media and community management.
The experiment has been brought to life in three key cities, Derby, Birmingham and London and is just some months old. e hard. 
local project done by the other giant The Guardian was community-focused too, but it was stopped 2 years ago because financially unsustainable. 
The initiative has been presented to a Danish group of journalist. They comment: “Replicate it in our country would be hard. Social media are not used in journalism”.


BBC Local Live 

A mixed group of Danish journalists and Birmingham City university media students was invited the last week by the BBC for a presentation about the recent Local Live local project. 

“Live Local is live, social and mobile”, 

comments Douglas Marshall, social media responsible for BBC England, about the initiative. 

 “With the use of social media the short-form journalism is getting more important day by as the readers often just scan the articles’ titles contained in a page. Then it gives the opportunity to journalists to cover events while they are happening without be in the office”. 

Local Live consists of a side space in the Birmingham & Black Country webpage in which are listed local news with short texts, pictures, tweets and videos. The topics covered are general news, sport, travel and weather and it includes links to both external and internal sources, like TV programmes as well as tweets from the local Council meetings. 




The BBC Birmingham & Black Country local page with BBC Local Live. It uses the @bbcwm twitter account.














The newsgathering technology used by the team to monitor the social media environment is 
mainly represented by Tweetdeck and Geofeedia
The first is a pretty well-known application to make twitter more flexible (read its Wikipedia entry for more information), while the latter represents an important instrument to track the social media presence in a particular area. 

According to Douglas Marshall the BBC uses heavily Geofeedia to search for local stories in real time as it reports entries from various platforms, including Twitter, Flickr, You Tube, Instagram and Picasa.

To offer a complete experience to the users, every of its 39 BBC England local pages offers links to other local news outlet. This is a singular choice that is observable mostly in the BBC website due its different business model, making the “click” competition with other more market-dependent outlets 
The clicks directing outside the website amount to 6% of the total.

Douglas Marshall and Kate Newman show the Birmingham BBC website page with Live Local  



As Marshall continues:

“Another aim of Live Local is the resurface of local BBC material, revisiting what the BBC does nationally in a local context”.


The failure of Guardian Local 

The day after the BBC presentation it was the time to hear about another experimental project, the Guardian Local
The Guardian’s journalist Hanna Waldram got an overview of her experience with Guardian Cardiff
This was a more ambitious initiative compared to the BBC’s, and was conceived in 2010 to serve also the communities of Leeds and Edimburgh.
Its “beatbloggers“, respectively John Baron, Tom Allan and Hanna Waldram worked alone to cover the assigned cities using a multimedia approach as well as social media.
As Hanna Waldram describes the job done for the Guardian,

“the work of a beatblogger consists in both community management and contents production. At the time of the start of Guardian Cardiff the local newspaper South Wales Echo were stopping to cover the Council affairs giving me the opportunity to begin with it”. 

The beatblogger used to write several stories in a single day across all the topics regarding the Cardiff community, from politics, infrastructure management, sports, arts through long-form stories and using different kinds of media, like slideshows, videos, timelines, data, pictures.

On community management she explains how fundamental was the relationship with the community she was serving:

“Meeting face to face the people of Cardiff helped me to build a relationship based on trust. Having a chat over a coffee or even stay in the central square is vital for a local journalist, it makes you visible; people after all realised that behind Guardian Cardiff there was just me.
In the meanwhile I tried to organise meetups and to seek for collaboration among the citizens, even with rival bloggers”

Ended the project due to financial issues, Hanna was recruited by the same Guardian as a national community manager, where she says, her experience as a community manager has been challenged due to the different scope of the Guardian national’s community.
This operation has been described as a publishing model success supported by a wrong commercial model depending on advertising. 
The closure of the project caused some disappointments in the communities covered, leading in Leeds to the creation of the #SaveGdnLeeds hashtag. 



Danish journalism and social media 

The Danish team of journalists that have been presented the two different experiences claims that such innovative way to do, what has been called, open journalism would be hard to apply in Denmark as social networks are rarely used in journalism.


As Peter From Jacobsen points out:

“There´s a great potential for further use of social media in journalism in Denmark. Surveys show that most journalists are on Facebook, but only half of them use Facebook in their journalistic work. That shows a large potential: they know how it works. It´s only to understand how it can contribute to your work”. 

“As for Twitter we see another picture: Twitter is not so developed in Denmark yet. Only around 150.000 (out of 5 million) are on Twitter. You still have to convince reporters that it is worth the effort to begin to start networking via Twitter”.

The 2013 New Media Trend Watch has classified Denmark as 5th in the global social media penetration (56%), just before the UK (50,2%), but, in fact, the European tweets map shows that since 2009 in Denmark the most active area has been Copenhagen, while the rest is pretty empty.

Peter From Jacobsen comments:

“One of the points to make I think is that journalists are very much focused on volume, and when you only get two retweets and three comments that seems to be not worth it. But social media is not always about volume.

Often it is about quality contacts and networking”. 

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