New on-line platform offers hope for future sustainability of local journalism

New on-line platform offers hope for future sustainability of local journalism Banner Image

Clare Cook, Senior Lecturer in Print and Online Journalism at the University of Central Lancashire.

National funding secured by UCLan-led research team to develop successful blueprint

A researcher at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) is leading the fight for sustainable journalism.

UCLan’s Clare Cook, Senior Lecturer in Print and Online Journalism, has teamed up with colleagues from Omni Digital, in Bristol, to find new revenue streams for hyperlocal and independent community journalists. 

They have secured funding from the Future News Fund in order to build a trending system to develop their existing Ping! platform. The project has already been supported with funding from Google’s Digital News Initiative. The funding is available from the Department of Culture Media and Sport to stimulate a sustainable future for journalism in the UK. 

By connecting hyperlocal journalists and their content with the wider news ecology supply chain, the Ping! platform is helping to create a more sustainable culture around hyperlocal journalism. Ping! was developed by The Centre for Community Journalism at Cardiff University, the Media Innovation Studio at UCLan, and Omni Digital.

Omni Digital specialises in innovative software solutions that drive positive change. This project will extend the functionality of Ping!, enabling a deeper level of story search via more fine-grained tagging, paving the way for natural language processing and machine learning. Research and impact evaluation of the project will be carried out by UCLan.

Ping! is the first and only centralised portal in the UK where hyperlocal journalists can upload content, which is then available for national and mainstream news desks to source and purchase.

The project aims to stimulate a new revenue stream for independent hyperlocal and community news publishers. Research shows local news producers’ revenue models rely heavily on advertising and given the shrinkage in the UK economy forecast to reach 35 percent, many risk closure. This will have a negative impact on the provision of trustworthy news when it is needed most.

“The solution is to extend an existing platform that innovates the supply chain of news,” explained Clare. “Ping! is the first and only centralised portal in the UK where hyperlocal journalists can upload content, which is then available for national and mainstream news desks to source and purchase. Much like a news agency, the platform ingests stories and organises them by category and location, e.g. sport, politics, Bristol. With this additional trending tool we can boost inclusivity and diversity across the industry by reflecting more community stories, and stimulate mutually beneficial relationships between hyperlocal, community, regional, and national media through a more intelligible and transparent environment.”

The proposed funding is instrumental in extending the functionality of Ping!. The key impact being to move towards creating a new revenue stream for hyperlocals.

Clare added: “By analysing the data generated from the system we will be able to identify how stories from otherwise disparate areas of the UK can be grouped together to see trends. This will help the sector learn how we might stimulate new revenues from content sales.

“The main area of focus is thus the sustainability of the independent local news sector and meeting the need of the journalism industry at this difficult time.”

Rachel Atkinson | 12 May 2020