ONE of our local MPs was preparing recently to speak on a television programme about hyperlocal bloggers, and whether they were posing a threat to the traditional regional media.
He was thinking in particular of those websites specialising in comment.
He asked me for my opinion, and this is the gist of what I told him.
Any website operating in the same geographical area as a regional newspaper company is, of course, a threat. Even if it were a non-commercial enterprise with no interest in challenging for advertising revenues, it would still be competing for a share of readers’ valuable time.
However, one-man-band bloggers are unlikely on their own to usurp newspapers, or even the predominantly online enterprises that they will in time become.
The fact is that most local bloggers are somewhat parasitic. Their opinions and analysis might well be their own, and be highly entertaining and thought-provoking, but the events and issues they chew over are generally those originally identified by professional local journalists.
Paid writers’ output is the foundation upon which local current affairs bloggers build their audiences. Without that original content, bloggers, who lack the resources to unearth news themselves, would have considerably less to mull over.
Now, that is not to say bloggers have nothing to contribute to local communities. On the contrary, they are a refreshing counterpoint to those commentators with a professional background.
The best scenario would be one in which publishers and bloggers form partnerships under the newspaper’s brand, sharing content and promoting each other’s output.
The newspaper’s role as a generator of original content is as precious as the blogger’s unique perspective on the local life.
Each needs the other to thrive.