Sarah Hartley

Archive for the ‘news’ tag

Welcome to the new How-do – meet Prolific North

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Launched today, this new website looks to fill the hole left by the closure of How Do. It’s the latest publishing venture from How-Do’s Nick Jaspan and reflects the thriving media scene here in the north.

Prolific North will become the destination for news, informed opinion, features and of course as much gossip and rumour as you can take about the comings and goings of creative and media companies in the North and their key staff.

In the coming months we will be offering a growing range of support services, enhancing our core news operation and jobs board, launching an innovative classified marketplace, partnering institutions on management development and training and creating a broad spectrum of events and industry initiatives to entertain and inform our readership.

Stories today include news about MCFC’s tweeting fans and BBC5 Live appointments. With so much happening in northern media just now it’s sure to be interesting times.

Take a look here:

Written by sarahhartley

January 14th, 2013 at 7:50 am

Experiment: News from your local town via mobile

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I made a thing…..

I’d like to think that when I use those four words in the subject line of emails it provokes a little spark of interest in my colleagues (possibly they just evoke a fearful uhoh!) but this time I’ll try it out on you.

The latest ‘thing’ I’ve messed with is an experiment to distribute news from the north into the mobile space using some of the tools available at the platform I’m working with,

It means that any mobile phone user who has the app downloaded will discover the news headlines and links from their local newspaper to click straight through to the provider to find out the full story, explore their site etc.

It runs off the news organisation’s public RSS feeds with the addition of geo-tagging to the town or city where it is based so – a person walking around Manchester will be able to serendipitously receive news from the MEN, in Newcastle the Journal, Sheffield The Star and so on.

The content is created via the app and then fed into an online noticeboard which becomes the way the stories are ultimately accessed via a mobile site, Android app or iPhone app.

All of the content can be seen in one go at this noticeboard although it’s unlikely that anyone (perhaps with the exception of journalists for monitoring purposes) would want to view it in that rather random way. Instead, it really is intended for mobile discovery where the location of the user provides the context.
You can download the apps to test it out here – android, iPhone.
Once logged in you can set your location and see all that’s been geotagged around you (notices) or restrict to everything via the Northerner noticeboard (boards).
A few things I learned from doing it:

  • some news sites make it really difficult to hunt down the RSS feeds – why? They’re the building blocks for people to make things which have the potential to find new audiences.
  • it wasn’t possible to tag the stories to the locations mentioned in the copy due to a lack of geo-tagging at source. This is an area I’m working with on a few different projects (including augmented reality) and one which I’d be interested to hear from anyone looking to incorporate it in their regular journalism work or content management systems.
  • The feeds currently included are: The Guardian’s Northerner blog, MEN, Middlesbrough Gazette, Newcastle Chronicle, Liverpool Echo, Lancashire Evening Post, Yorkshire Evening Post, Carlisle News and Star, York Press, Sheffield Star, Northern Echo.
  • should it include local blogs? Any newsy-based bloggers out there who’d like to be included, please give me a shout and I’ll add you in. Likewise, anyone currently included who would rather not have their content exposed to a mobile audience – just let me know and I’ll drop it out. It’s an experiment, I don’t want to annoy anyone.

If you’d like a similar thing for your own blog or website – basically it’s like having your own mobile app – the tools used are available to all here and I’m on hand to offer some help or advice if needed.

Written by sarahhartley

January 11th, 2013 at 8:13 am

Why a Manchester start-up has quit Facebook and the launch of Leeds paper’s mobile services

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Bye, bye Facebook

Just to let you know: we won’t be using Facebook any more. ……..

“They won’t let pages contact or even view their own fans (really!), so nobody knows how many fakes they really have – except Facebook, and they’re not telling. They won’t allow an independent audit of their advert system either.

Just part of the message to its former Facebook followers from Piccadilly Gardens based cloud computing firm Charity Engine’s CEO Mark McAndrew.

He tells Business Insider how he believes Facebook is hiding fake users behind its policy of restricted access for Page owners.

Facebook has responded with information about its system for deleting fakes but, in this post at least, doesn’t address the issue of limited access, and therefore limited ability to generate revenues, from large Page followings.

I wonder whether this development will encourage any others to follow suite? Recent conversations with another large northern Facebook Page would suggest a general unhappiness with the level of control the American giant wields over access to communities which have been hard-fought to build and retain.

Hello mobile world


The home page layout


As flagged on this blog on New Year’s Day, Johnston Press are rolling on with their plan to deliver news through apps and today: “The Yorkshire Evening Post has launched new iPad and Android tablet apps, offering the latest news throughout the day as well as complete electronic copies of the newspaper.”


Football page

The launch piece online today doesn’t include a review or a clickable link to subscribe – but here are a couple of screengrabs showing the iPad edition this morning.

It’s not clear whether there’s any content unique to the new format – any Leeds readers fancy reviewing the app, let me know.

Written by sarahhartley

January 3rd, 2013 at 11:08 am

News co-ops in Leeds, tributes in County Durham and Tad Gram Style in York

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New Year, New Co-Op?
Journalist and blogger John Baron kicks off the new year with some thoughts about co-ops as a business model for a sustainable local news future.

 At Leeds Bloggers he posts:

The whole idea of a community-owned journalism outlet or model does appeal – not least it won’t be run by some of the big corporations that currently rule regional press and it seems to me at least to be an extension of the hyperlocal movement of bloggers, which is so eloquently described in Damian Radcliffe’s excellent Here and Now report for Nesta. Could mutualisation yet prove an answer?

John says he’s ‘intrigued’ by the possibility of setting one up in Leeds with journalists and/or bloggers and asks that anyone interested in having an initial discussion in  confidence to contact him at


Tributes to north east journalist
The Northern Echo reports that retired reporter Dennis Robinson, of Sedgefield, County Durham, has died at the age of 84 following a long illness.

“For six decades, he was a regular contributor to The Northern Echo and its sister publications and was happiest when covering grassroots community news.”


York’s tadgram style video viral
If you thought you could escape the Gangnam Style phenomenon with the dawning of a New Year, spare a thought for Adam Dawson who has found ‘fame’ with his spoof dance video for charity.

He tells the York Press:“It’s hard to even think of 220,000 people [who’ve viewed the clip]. To be going to the supermarket and being in the local shop and have people wanting to have their picture taken with me is surreal.”

Written by sarahhartley

January 2nd, 2013 at 8:42 am

Making of a hyperlocal part four: Competitors

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This is a tricky area and I don’t claim to have all the answers but I have seen a variety of different approaches on dealing with ‘competing’ local services. Even the idea of ‘competition’ in the hyperlocal space can be problematic as many publishers don’t feel they are competing with other existing services but instead come from a starting point of providing something new, missing or complimentary to what was previously on offer.

In the case of the fledgling hyperlocal I’m initiating, that’s certainly my standpoint and I hadn’t expected to be considering this issue so early in the process however, the reaction from a local commercially run website pointed up something different so it’s become something that needed to be addressed.

In fact that’s possibly the first thing to note, even if you’re not running the hyperlocal as a commercial enterprise, it may be considered as competition by those who do seek to make money from local publishing, one of the reasons why there’s sometimes friction between local newspapers and community websites and blogs. Established operators may feel they ‘own’ the local space.

The thinking which underlies that approach often doesn’t take into account the very different way people consume news and information online and via mobile but it is a view still present in some quarters and so may reveal itself as an issue quite early in the life of your hyperlocal.

So what’s the best strategy? Here’s five different approaches to consider:

1. Publish a manifesto
Lay out your stall online. What the site is doing, what it stands for, why you’re doing it etc. This can be around the editorial tone and content but also be extended to any commercial dealings. Greater transparency with everything from traffic figures to ad revenues can help explain the role you see the site fulfilling.This one from the US site The Rapidian is an effective and concise example.

2. Contact possible competitors
Basically the same as the above but on a one-to-one basis.
Introduce yourself and explain what you’re doing, why you’re doing it etc. I’d love to be able to relay experience of this in action but sadly, so far at least, this approach has been without success for several projects I’ve initiated. If you’ve different experience, please do feel free to add to this post via the comments below.

3. Find areas to collaborate
Maybe you have great photography but the other site has the resources to do in-depth reporting – together you could create great slideshows. Or maybe you could provide a feed of information which, properly attributed, could be used in the local community sections?
Taking some time to understand the strengths and weaknesses of each proposition could lead to a fruitful collaboration whether on an ongoing basis or a one-off project.
A good example of this in action can be seen in the work Trinity Mirror has done in Birmingham which laid the groundwork for hyperlocal content sharing. (Disclosure: I am connected with, Talk About Local, the company involved in the initiative).

4. Give link love
If you genuinely don’t compete, then this will be a simple but effective step you can take that gives your users the benefit of all the content available locally while taking some of the sting out of any fraught relationships. Linking to stories being carried elsewhere builds your repository of information and can help users understand the difference between your offering and that of your competitor. If the content isn’t suitable on a day-to-day basis, consider a fixed link in the blog roll, ad space or similar to point up the existence of other provision.

5. Go it alone
Not much of a strategy but this maybe what you end up with so be prepared. It maybe you discover there’s no appetite for collaboration and your ‘competitors’ would rather behave as if you didn’t exist. If that happens then – keep calm and carry on as the much overused expression goes – your users are actually unlikely to care one way or the other and you’ve undoubtedly enough to be getting on with.

* Do you have experience in this area which could help people starting out? Please feel free to add to this post via the comments below.

Written by sarahhartley

December 28th, 2012 at 12:00 pm

Presentation: Augmented Reality for journalists and bloggers

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This is the presentation I rather rushed through in the two minutes alloted at the News Rewired event in London yesterday. It really wasn’t long enough to go into any details about the Talk About Local project to experiment with public service content in the augmented reality environment so see below for some links for more info.

Slides 2 and 3: Ar selling sofas with CSL
Slides 4 and 5: Heinz prompts a recipe book using ingredient.
Slides 6 – 10: mainstream publishing using AR from News International.
Slides 11 – 15: What the Talk About Local project looks like in the AR layer.

After producing and testing the prototype to to feed hyperlocal content into the AR environment, the work with Talk About Local continues to expand this further to help people achieve an easy to use and low cost solution.

Progress and further information is available at the project blog here: is featuring AR at this week’s podcast which inlcudes an interview with me about Talk About Local’s work and also representatives from The Times, the LA Times and The Telegraph.

Written by sarahhartley

December 7th, 2012 at 10:52 am

Data journalism demonstration for Turkey’s imprisoned journalists

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Data journalism isn’t a much-used term in Turkey where I’m currently coaching on a weekend for news entrepreneurs as part of the #MADETurkey project.

The country is advanced in its Internet use – it’s the fourth biggest worldwide user of Facebook for instance – but journalism is still very much in a transition process to digital and the opportunities scrutinising data offers to journalists just beginning.

After giving a short introduction to data journalism session yesterday, including three very different examples of projects in other parts of the world – wikileaks, HomicideWatch and ArtCast – it was time to demonstrate something practicle and this is the proof of concept that Megan Knight from Uclan put together.

See the mapping here.

Using a few of the figures from the Committee to Protect Journalists’ The map was created in a very short space of time to illustrate that points that 1. The tools to create something like this area freely available and 2. The skills required are ones all journalists have ie. gathering and processing information, albeit using slightly different tools.

The demo map was created using publicly available data and in a process which is described step-by-step here.

Written by sarahhartley

October 7th, 2012 at 9:45 am

Making a hyperlocal part one: Why?


This the first in a series of blog posts where I shall document the hyperlocal initiative as a step-by-step process that is intended to be helpful to anyone setting about a similar project – shared experiences and tips most welome.

n0tice‘Why?’ really does have to be the very first question for anyone setting up a hyperlocal website or blog. The reasons for getting involved in any community publishing venture vary widely and I’ve come across many over the years – maybe there’s a specific issue that needs addressing locally, perhaps there’s a lack of news provision generally in the area or poor local information? maybe it’s a business opportunity you’ve spotted in these freelance and DIY days?

All valid reasons and ones that it’s important to understand and be able to articulate before setting about any enterprise which could become a passion, a profitable enterprise or a lot of fun on one hand but, if it all goes wrong, a depressing timesink or costly mistake.

I’ve come up with the five questions below to think through the ‘why’ before getting started. There’s no correct answers, it’s as much about the process of answering the questions to help establish the way your hyperlocal proceeds and provide a framework or bare bones of the project.

Producing this basic list can be a vital piece of documentation to return to in the future as things develop and can help stop you getting blown off course.

My answers in connection with my own new venture are in brief below.

Five questions to consider before starting any hyperlocal project

1. Is there a need? This could be a general need ie. nowhere to find what’s going on or a specific need eg. The dog fouling in this town is appalling or why does no-one ever stand for council election?

2.  What is the site to be for? Events? news? conversation? photography? It can be all of the above, or a combination, but it’s important to think through the primary aim as there will substantial differences in the decisions taken down the line between, for instance, a site set up to express a sense of place and one investigating local issues or a forum for conversations.

3. What existing provision is there? Relates to point 2 – is there already activity locally and in which aspects? Identify who else covers the patch in terms of blogs and twitter as well as mainstream media in print, broadcast or online. There’s no point in re-inventing the wheel so if there’s some good content out there, understand where to find it.

4. Do you seek to receive any income from it? Again, some of the decisions coming up will be dependent on this answer. Even which platform to use for publishing, as well as business structures and status.

5. What does success look like? Yes, a cheesy management line in some instances, but this will help form the guiding principles for your site and is a vital conversation to have if a group of people is involved. A lot of potential later friction can be avoided by thought and detailing at this pre-launch stage.


My answers in brief

  1. The need I identify in the town is primarily around the transparency of local decision-making with a secondary one of finding out what’s on. There are already some sources of information (identified in point 3) but nothing specifically aimed at people using digital tools and platforms who are empowered to participate online or via mobiles. I have noticed very few members of the public turning out for meetings on important local issues and local elections are poorly attended. On a parliamentary basis, the constituency must be one of the safest Tory seats in the country, currently held by foreign secretary William Hague.
  2. The site is for sharing. That’s a simple aspiration but one I know from experience it will be hard to achieve. The last thing I want to prompt is a top down service – this is to be a set of tools to enable people to share the local information important to them. As an engaged local person myself, I’m also keen to participate where I can but, it is not MY site!
  3. As far as mainstream news provision goes, the town is one of those places that’s on the edge of everyone’s patch – a factor I’ve noticed in quite a lot of other hyperlocals. In print,  two regional dailies , The Northern Echo and The Yorkshire Post both have the town in their sights – occasionally. Reductions in staff, budgets, offices etc. have inevitably taken their toll as their readerships have fallen to 38,479* And 37,833* Respectively. Richmondshire  has a population in excess of 47,000 and each of those publications includes several large and very newsworthy cities in their patches. The free newspaper, The Yorkshire Advertiser has a distribution of 23,716* but again, has much larger places within its patch and so provides a limited number of stories relating specifically about the town. The excellent weekly paper, The Darlington and Stockton Times fights a good fight and publication is still eagerly awaited by many in the town but even that only serves : 21,829* (down 5.2%) across a large geographical patch. Broadcast-wise, the town falls into the BBC Tees are which has its heart on the industrial towns and cities of Teesside and the forces radio provides a good community serice for those based at nearby Catterick Garrison. TV is again, on the edge of everywhere with residents likely to choose to receive Tyne Tees or Yorkshire regions depending on work or family background. There is another online service, RichmondOnline which provides a good what’s on service in addition to producing a local business directory. (* Newspaper figures from latest ABCs.)
  4. No. I intend this to be a project for the benefit of the local community and will be doing this as part of my other activities in the hyperlocal publishing sphere so I don’t need it to provide me with an income.
  5. Success would ultimately look like something that can exist and thrive without me. Although I am very keen to participate in the life of the town (and love doing the sort of local reporting I’ve been involved in for 20+ years now), if the site isn’t valuable enough for people to also want to engage in and contribute, then it won’t have succeeded in the terms I measure it.

Written by sarahhartley

October 1st, 2012 at 12:13 pm

Augmented Reality as a tool for journalism



Picture: Gary Hayes

What does Augmented Reality (AR) do for journalism and how could it be used by journalists? Questions that have struck me while recently working using the geo-location capabilities of n0tice in combination with the Apollo prototype created during the hypARlocal project for Talk About Local.

Google searches reveal very  little experimentation in this area – in fact an article by former colleague Mercedes Bunz way back in 2010 is almost the final word on the topic. There’s a couple of conclusions that you could arrive at about the current state of play around perceived ease of access to these technologies but maybe the overriding factor is a perception that there’s not enough mainstream take-up of the technology to make AR commercially viable for big news organisations to get involved with so therefore work by journalists to experiment in this area isn’t yet an imperative.

One of the frustrations with talking to journalists and others about AR, is that it’s harder to describe than it is to use but sharing the experience isn’t easy to do remotely like this. (William Perrin made this video in an attempt to get over this problem.)

But leaving those issues aside, how about its use as a tool for stories told in a new, non-linear way?……….here AR could be a completely different scenario for those individuals who want to explore the new ways no/ low cost mobile technologies can help to engage people in their stories, maybe even develop a mobile-native form of journalism?

To explore this I started by thinking about the well-established building blocks and then attempted to  identify the differences AR could make to this set up. To my mind history has previously shown that the counter approach to something new in the space I.e. taking material from an existing structure and expecting it to play out using a new technology in the same or just slightly altered /re-purposed way doesn’t take full advantage of any new technology – just think back to the shovelware approach to online which newspapers took in the early days which denied the interactive opportunities the www made possible.

So if AR was to become more than just a distribution channel for content already created somewhere else, what would that look like? What would be an AR-native piece of journalism?

Starting with the building blocks drilled into every journalism student, every story is to contain the following basic pieces of information;
- who
- what
- why
- where
- when
- how or how much

The traditional structure for this information is an inverted pyramid with everything considered important as near to the top as possible and lesser information moving towards the bottom. A structure devised for the specific purposes of print so that copy could be chopped to fit from the bottom to fill spaces on pages in hot metal before the computerisation of layout.

Despite the advent of Internet-native forms such as live blogging, a huge proportion of journalism consumed via mobiles is still structured like this today. In the best examples an important new dimension has been added into the thinking ie. the audience  - the collaborative addition. This removes the start-end of the piece so you end up with a cycle more like this one described as a ‘news diamond’.

But that doesn’t take into account any aspect of the experience being about mobile technology per se, rather, the journalism encountered on a mobile is using the device merely as a distribution channel albeit  with concerns given to its design eg. For a small screen, multimedia etc.

What if that ‘where‘ element of the news story became the most vital part of the content experience instead of simply being one element? GPS technology and AR means we are no longer bound to a location as a non-dynamic word in a story, we can actually go there, we can experience the place via our handsets rather than just a picture, our imaginations or prior knowledge. Could the old model be blown apart to create a completely different way of exploring a story thanks to this technology being deployed?

To date, the closet activity I’ve come across which looks along these lines is the trans media work being done  in drama and fiction which uses approaches from gaming technologies to allow the audience of say a television programme to explore story strands in a non-linear way using the ‘red button’ or carried online, into gaming or onto other broadcast platforms such as radio. But what about bringing this approach into the news and information sphere as well?

Playing around with this idea the traditional story format quickly becomes cumbersome and it starts instead to feel as though there should be multiple clusters of story lines emerging. Each cluster of information, response, addition etc. bound by its location rather than a timeframe. Each of these  location based story clusters becomes a story in its own right, a way of exploring that aspect further – what does the place look like, who else is at that location, what other information is contained in the streets or buildings around? This isn’t necessarily information the journalist has had to gather, but can be simply  that the reader* can explore, reveal and, importantly, add to the story thread thanks to the capabilities of AR.
The story thread and clusters idea immediately throws up some new challenges for a journalist accustomed to creating one main piece containing what’s been sifted and selected to be the most useful information:

- one or more of the clusters could develop off on a completely new tangent thanks to the input of someone encountering it.
- the person encountering it might only ever discover one or several story threads rather than all of them – does this matter?
- how will entirely new story threads be created/discovered in relation to the early ones?

There is an irony that, by blogging it here, I’m having to describe the process on a non-mobile platform rather than demonstrate it via mobile devices which would be much more effective and intuitive.

That’s something I intend to work with in the coming months, see if there’s a better way of showing (rather than telling) how this might work so I’d be very interested in hearing from, or about, any other people experimenting in this area.

* reader – doesn’t seem the right description for someone who is participating at this level does it? But what to call those that read, encounter, browse, add to, take from etc. etc……..

Written by sarahhartley

September 3rd, 2012 at 2:03 pm

Is 2012 the year UK hyperlocal will come of age?

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What's on the horizon? Image CC Flickr user Dominics Pics:

The evolution of the UK’s hyperlocal landscape has been interesting to observe, document and participate in over the past few years – but what’s to come? Is now the moment for hyperlocal, that perfect storm?
This time of year is long-established as acceptable for gazing into the crystal ball (despite the risk of certain ridicule in  12 months time when predictions remain way off target!), so here’s my few tentative thoughts.

Where we are
The last year has certainly been an active one for all shapes and sizes of hyperlocal publishing, that ecosystem of news, information and community provision has probably never been more dispersed since the days of the public sphere of the 18th century before that itself was disrupted by the arrival of the mainstream media barons. Some independent sites have become so well established and experienced now they are the mainstream for their communities while it seems not a month goes by without another venture starting – some news based, some campaigning others becoming the local glue by connecting local conversations.
The OpenlyLocal register of hyperlocal sites and blogs is showing many hundreds and put that together with the fact there’s 1,600 local newspapers operating websites across the UK (although it should be noted not many have taken on the challenge of that truly grassroots hyperlocal opportunity) it could be seen as all is rosy out here in local land. But we are all very aware that is not quite as the raw numbers might suggest – while the independent sector is growing, there’s the well-documented continuing retractions in local newspapers from the big media groups – 31 weeklies in the last year according to the latest figures compiled by Roy Greenslade.

What’s in store
Prediction one: A even greater dispersal of local news and information with more activity starting up but more of it looking into niche areas. While website/blogs which have aspects of traditional publishing (ie. news, sport, features etc.) might become fewer, the levels of hyperlocal activity across all and many platforms will undoubtedly become greater. Less about the destination and more about the journey.

Prediction two: Location, location, location. Given that most hyperlocal activity has a geographical focus, this might sound obvious but, taking in the point above, connecting with people across many and/or all platforms requires content to have geo-locative information like never before and the technologies to achieve that are now easily/cheaply available. As the tech giants and social media platforms offer ever more focused tools to drill into localities, the opportunities for hyperlocals to join up the dots in their communities grows and grows. Seems quite a few American hyperlocal pioneers agree on this point – just look at how often the ge0 issue is mentioned in Street Fight’s round up of their views.

Prediction three: A business model will emerge! Ok, this is a bit of indulgent New Year optimism over experience but …..there are some sensible moves afoot which are addressing the hyperlocal conundrum – how to offer sufficient scale to advertisers while keeping sufficient granularity for readers. Looking to the States, this model of hyperlocals huddling together to create scale while retaining their independence is interesting – could Liverpool or Lyme Regis, Bolton or Brighton be the UK’s Chicago? Maybe advertising’s not the whole answer for sustainability – a move away from traditional profit based company structures to a charitable or co-operative model is already being discussed in areas as different as Edinburgh, Port Talbot and London. It has to be accepted that not all hyperlocals are remotely interested in developing a business from their community endeavours, but in 2012, many of those that do, now have the confidence and experience to move this agenda on.

Wishing you a Happy Hyperlocal New Year!

Written by sarahhartley

December 30th, 2011 at 12:23 pm