Demand for hyperlocal content is being driven by increased usage of mobile devices according to a study conducted by the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts (Nesta) charitable foundation.
The study, UK Demand for Hyperlocal Media, which is based on a survey of 2,248 people, also highlights readers' reasons for accessing hyperlocal content; regions where hyperlocals are more popular and which demographics are more frequent users of hyperlocal content.
"Both the reach and the consumption of hyperlocal content has been accelerated by smartphones," Jon Kingsbury, Nesta's programme director for creative economy, told Journalism.co.uk.
"And of course smart phones know where you are, so we think that offers a huge potential to hyperlocal publishers to make opportunities out of the fact that GPS-enabled devices might be a way of helping people find their content."
While the majority of respondent said they accessed hyperlocal content more regularly than they did two years ago, increased use is most prevalent among tablet users (60 per cent) and mobile users (59 per cent) while 55 per cent of respondents said their increased usage is directly related to getting a mobile device.
Weather, news and entertainment were the most popular reasons for accessing hyperlocal content, but just under half of respondents said having to pay for the service would limit their use of hyperlocal media sources.
"As you go ever more hyperlocal your relevance in terms of what content you can serve goes up," Kingsbury said, "but you have to match that with a parallel relevance to advertisers otherwise they feel that they're reaching a smaller amount of people.
"The other thing that really came out in the research is that people expect traditional media brands to provide very very local content. When we asked them where they would look for very very local content they were much more likely to look to existing or traditional brands, like broadcasters and traditional local newspapers, than they were to hyperlocal blogs."
Kingsbury pointed out that while bloggers often provide the content but do not have the reach, the opposite is true of many traditional media organisations who are yet to provide the content on an online or mobile platform.
"There is a divisiveness in the local media scene at the moment," he said, "but I think if this research points to anything it actually points to collaboration between the incumbents and the new kids on the block."
As for which regions appeared to be more popular for hyperlocals, the study said use of hyperlocal sites is highest in the South West. It also found that the 34 to 55 year-old age bracket accessed hyperlocal content more regularly. Kingsbury attributed this to a readership of people "putting down roots" in a community.
Nesta will be publishing a follow-up study looking at hyperlocal advertising markets in the coming months. The research is part of Nesta's Destination Local programme which last year awarded funding to ten hyperlocal projects, some of which will be part of a blog series on successful hyperlocal business models featured on the foundation's website.
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