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Can Big Media do "Big Society"?: A Critical Case Study of Commercial, Convergent Hyperlocal News

Thurman, N., Pascal, J. C. & Bradshaw, P. (2012). Can Big Media do "Big Society"?: A Critical Case Study of Commercial, Convergent Hyperlocal News. International Journal of Media and Cultural Politics, 8(2), pp. 269-285. doi: 10.1386/macp.8.2-3.269_1

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The UK Government is committed to helping ‘nurture a new generation of local media companies’. Changes to local media ownership rules allowing companies to follow their customers from platform to platform are supposed to assist in this by encouraging economies of scale. This paper provides a timely case study examining a UK-based commercial local news network owned by Daily Mail & General Trust that leverages economies of scale: Northcliffe Media’s network of 154 Local People websites. The study evaluates the level of audience engagement with the Local People sites through a user survey, and by looking at the numbers of active users, their contributions and their connections with other users. Interviews with ten of the ‘community publishers’ who oversee each site on the ground were conducted, along with a content survey. Although the study reveals a demand for community content, particularly of a practical nature, the results question the extent to which this type of ‘big media’ local news website can succeed as a local social network, reinvigorate political engagement, or encourage citizen reporting. The Government hopes that communities, especially rural ones, will increasingly use the Internet to access local news and information, thereby supporting new, profitable local media companies, who will nurture a sense of local identity and hold locally-elected politicians to account. This case study highlights the difficulties inherent in achieving such outcomes, even using the Government’s preferred convergent, commercial model.

Publication Type: Article
Publisher Keywords: hyperlocal media, big society, convergence, localization, regional media, user-generated content
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HE Transportation and Communications
J Political Science > JA Political science (General)
Departments: School of Communication & Creativity > Journalism
SWORD Depositor:
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