Hyperlocal – characteristics, challenges and hopes

Jaana Hujanen, Katja Lehtisaari, Mikko Grönlund and Carl-Gustav Lindén

Examining hyperlocal media is important when discussing the changing character of journalism and media business. Where citizens get information about local activities and how they are able to participate in them are critical questions also from a democratic perspective. This paper contributes to the discussion about the future of journalism by presenting results from a study on hyperlocal media in Finland. The paper examines the number, the geographical positions and the types of hyperlocal media in Finland in 2017. Professional, semi-professional and amateur-driven initiatives are analyzed. A short comparative analysis is done on the current situation of local newspapers and freesheets. The empirical data analyzed consists of interviews, circulation statistics, and case studies. The paper also focuses on the nature of hyperlocal media, using Metzgar, Kurpius and Rowley’s (2011) definition as a starting point. The dimensions of authorship, content, business model, community orientation and civic engagement are analyzed. In the light of the study, hyperlocal publications aim at being constructive as well as enhancing civic engagement, among others. In this sense, hyperlocal publications typically aim at producing and maintaining hope among their readers and within their communities. Compared to previous definitions of hyperlocal, this paper argues for a less normative and thematically broader framework which recognizes emerging forms of communication which cannot be seen as producing professionally produced ‘news’ but which have similar role in people’s everyday lives locally as the traditional news media have.