“Hyperlocal” is So 2010

When TBD announced massive layoffs last week, critics took the opportunity to declare that “hyperlocal” journalism would never pay. Meanwhile, TBD founder Jim Brady took pains to explain that they were never trying to “do hyperlocal” in the first place; that’s a label that got stuck on them from the outside.

Hyperlocal seems to have lost its hype in recent months, if not become a word to avoid altogether. So when Brian Stelter of The New York Times introduced the panel he was moderating at Thursday’s paidContent conference with a question about the “H” word, there was a slight sense of the eye-roll on stage.

AOL’s John Brod, who heads his company’s local, mapping, and search functionalities, said he’s never been a fan of the term “hyperlocal,” because he never knows whether to put a hyphen in the middle of it or not. (But seriously, folks….) He prefers the terms “community” and “neighborhood” for what AOL is trying to accomplish with their 800 or so Patch sites, which is to “effectively digitize towns.”

John Paton, CEO of Journal Register, said that even with increased investment and hiring, his papers can’t be everywhere. So partnerships—with local bloggers, with platforms provided by companies like SeeClickFix—are the only way to cover “hyperlocal” news, although he calls them “towns and communities” for the purpose of the Journal Register’s coverage.

Lisa Frazier, President and CEO of The Bay Citizen, which covers San Francisco, Oakland, and San Jose, prefers “regional” for describing her outlet, but says that the Citizen also partners with other sites for “niche” and “local” content. Carll Tucker of Main Street Connect—a network of sites in southern Connecticut, and soon Westchester—rounded out the group’s dismissal of the term.

“I hate the term hyperlocal because our two constituencies…that is, our readers and local businesses, have no idea what it means,” said Tucker. “So we’re in the business of creating ‘community news.’”

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Lauren Kirchner is a freelance writer covering digital security for CJR. Find her on Twitter at @lkirchner