What does ‘Local’ News Mean in a Internet Age?

As the BBC builds new links with local and hyperlocal news providers, Damon Kiesow has written an interesting musing on what the term ‘local’ really means.

For those of us who live our lives ‘seamlessly between online and offline’, where Amazon is our high street and we stream our movies from the internet rather than renting a dvd from the local video shop, is it time we thought again about what ‘local’ means?

These days, digital-savvy readers live seamlessly between online and offline. Amazon.com is their local market and Netflix their local theater. The problem is neither Amazon or Netflix are “local” in a sense that is recognizable by local media. But, chances are about 30% of your hometown have shopped at Amazon in the past year. And Netflix has 40 million U.S. customers. There is a reason suburban malls are in trouble and Blockbuster went out of business.

Kiesow argues that media organisations spend too much time trying to work out which format on which platforms will best encourage users to pay for news, and not enough time on who an audience is, and what they want to consume.

The problem is the news industry has gone for years without needing to examine who its audience is or what they want. And our organizations have calcified to the point that it is difficult for us to even ask, much less answer the question.