That’s the verdict from the excellent Future of News West Midlands event in Birmingham.
Depressing? Not really. Realistic? Absolutely. And there’s a surprising amount in common between hyperlocals and local government web experimentors like me.
This rather excellent event at Birmingham City University drew web entrepreneurs, hyperlocals and newspaper people.
Forward looking rather than finger pointing it looked for solutions and answers rather than blame.
The seven income streams idea for hyperlocals prompted debate about what those streams could be. Straight forward banner ads emerge from the print model. But then what?
Actually, a whole myriad of ideas that the show web as a vibrant place for entrepreneurs.
Picture framing, listings, ad features, hyperlocal t-shirts bigging up an estate or area and PR services all emerged as potential solutions. There was even a natty idea to maximise dead air time on pub TVs.
However, the danger is the cash cow you chance upon replaces the hyperlocal reason for doing it in the first place. Besides, what works in one town may not work in a different estate.
But surely this lack of sure funding means hyperlocals are doomed? If you were an accountant, yes. You could be right. And if you were looking at these sites to make piles of cash.
But then balance sheets don’t count the enthusiasm, community spirit and zeal many people are powered by.
First, there’s still demand for local news, for one. And a passion for an area.
But if something really did become crystal clear it’s this: there are barriers to hyperlocals as we’ll as local government. They just have different labels.
For hyperlocals it’s lack of time and the prized extra time seven income streams can bring.
For local government, who can have a degree of funding, it’s lack of time and the barriers a chain of command – and IT departments – can bring. We may want to deploy leftfield ideas. It’s just not always possible.
Both sides can be forgiven for looking enviously at the other.
Yet, for all these obstacles there are some brilliant ideas taking shape in all corners of the web in the public and private sectors.
There’s no golden bullet for the future of news but I’m convinced the answers will be found through pioneering spirit plus a passion for an area.
That’s not unlike how good web ideas will succeed in local government.
Creative commons credits.
Abstract image www.imageabstraction.com.
Corrected journal Judge Mental