I’m delighted that discussions about local blogging, local councils using online engagement tools, and how to sustain these activities have lifted off on socialbysocial.net – the online community I’ve started with Amy Sample Ward, co-author in the Social by Social book (download free). I’ve now added an interview with Rick Waghorn, who explains how the Addiply service may help: more below on that.
Michele Ide-Smith has a particularly interesting post about the choices she has posed to the council and other bodies she is working with: should that they support hyperlocal bottom-up activity, or develop their own digital engagement tools linked to neighbourhood panels and other methods.
Amy has reported on the workshop that we ran with Community Voices at the Digital Engagement event, and I’ve pondered on how far traditional community organisers could join up with those that are using social media. Will Perrin has set up a hyperlocal alliance group for these activists, and there’s also a group for the knowledge hub, which I’ve written about before.
Now back to Rick. Events like the Talk About Local unconference show the terrific enthusiasm developing around local blogs and online communities … but is it realistic to expect volunteers to keep them going?
Nick Booth (podnosh) summed it up when he tweeted from a recent discussion: local blogs are compelling when they are the authentic voice of the blogger … but it’s difficult to get more of them because they depend so much on the individual. Not only do bloggers and community managers put in lots of effort, they probably have some costs to bear by way of charges for online services.
Rick Waghorn doesn’t have the complete answer, but the Addiply service he is developing does offer bloggers the chance to make a few pounds from small ads tailored to their locality. He suggests this might help them move to not-at-a-loss, helping keep up motivation, and also providing a way for local groups and businesses to get a presence online through low-cost ads. You can see the service in action on the excellent Lichfield blog.
I find people in the traditional world of community organising can be a bit sniffy about for-profit enterprises coming on to their territory … while often being keen to get local businesses to support their community newspaper. Fine – but I know from experience that it’s a real chore going round traders and collecting a few pounds from each for the next issue. Addiply very neatly shows how online commercial services can help do the job, even at a modest level … and hpw the old for-profit, not-for-profit divisions may be breaking down.
Update: here’s a summary of the meeting at the Department of Culture Media and Sport tweeted by Nick Booth, including suggestions on what Government should and should do to support hyperlocal news.