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Rick Waghorn welcomes the lifeline offered by the £2.5m 'Destination Local Demonstrators' call to the UK's hyperlocal media sector

'The Technology Strategy Board and Nesta have worked together to develop the Destination Local Demonstrators for collaborative research and development of information, news and commerical services for geographical communities.

‘The aim of the £2.5m competition will be to invest in several significant projects across the UK.

‘A mix of project ideas that target rural and urban areas are anticipated, but all are intended to develop the kinds of enabling technologies, platforms and services which build up the businesses of the future and help the UK to become a world-centre for hyperlocal media.’

For those of us who have long laboured in this #hyperlocal space, this is a big deal.

News that between the TSB and NESTA they have £2.5 million to invest in several ‘Hyperlocal Media Demonstrators’ across the UK; the remit for one likely to be something in rural.

How that cake is actually split is for another time; be it four projects or five, £500,000-£600,000 to put into this space is a huge opportunity to go build. To find out what *might* work, if nothing right now does. To misquote Mr Shirky.

Why the pair are so keen to find out what else might work when the DCMS have their own ‘Local TV’ initiative due to go live through the course of 2014 is, likewise, something for another day.

And there is, of course, no reason why the two models can’t complement eachother; certainly in the rural vs urban setting. For where a TV transmitter mast fails to go… what next?

It will be fascinating to see what models emerge; I’ve long scribbled on the back of a fag-packet the model I’d build given half a chance and a bag-load of someone else’s tenners.

And it wouldn’t sit in a silo.

Nor come from the ‘top down’.

Even if some of the ads might.

It would be elegant; simple; obvious.

Ubiquitous, to quote her ladyship.

It would be open, collaborative; it would have been of the web and not on it.

Now it will be mobile; mobile is the only thing that matters right now. That and location.

It will be data-driven; weaving in APIs from across that community – be it bus times or time to travel maps, we will weave in the best that is out there; to mobile; to where and when the user wants it.

We will swap free wifi for their location; and, by way of return, deliver ads, offers and localised coupons that are contextualised to both their physical loaction and their position within a mobile app experience.

The ad will be delivered at a time of a developer’s choosing and not, say, AdMob’s making.

And we will seek partnerships with those who know these local, commercial spaces better than anyone; people who have been pounding the streets of their local communities for the last 250 years; making a local media model work.

For me, this funding call is a huge opportunity for the local newspaper groups to re-tool, re-focus and re-group in face of the second wave of disruption now amongst them – mobile.

That tidal wave that threatens to engulf all too many of us. As Poynter pointed out.

Both in terms of the threat – and the opportunity; for those that moved with speed.

‘There’s a narrow window of opportunity to invent — or invest and acquire — disruptive mobile technologies and business models that could eventually sustain, grow or even multiply your revenue…'

The beauty here being that you’re playing with someone else’s money to try and see what works on mobile, in local.

The reward? Well, every graph and bar chart you see right now has mobile ad revenues pointing north – 145% year-on-year growth in the case of the US right now.

Is that not worth chasing?

We live in a world that is ever more networked; ever more connected. And yet one that still cries out for a human to intervene occasionally – particularly in the field of local ad sales. That space where the premium ad rates are still to be found.

And there has to be video; into mobile. The kids will expect nothing less. Only we have to have the connection to deliver it.

And I strongly suspect that – in rural areas – that level of connection is not going to come off the back of a copper wire; as and when BT ever roll up at the nearest cabinet.

I remain wedded to the hope that part of the answer will come from on high…

Certainly here in Norfolk; blessed with a Bishop with an interest in all things local and media; a man who wishes to see his churches restored to their place as the central hub of any community.

Off which you can then build a network. Of connection. Of content. And commercial opportunity.

But, that’s all for the future; hopefully. We have teams to find; partnerships to build.

For now, all credit to the TSB and NESTA; they have kept the faith that there is something afoot in hyperlocal. Just as Eric Schmidt does – and who are any of us to doubt Mr G?

Rick Waghorn is a new media entrepreneur and blogger at OutWithABang; CEO and Founder of niche/local advertising system, Addiply and founder of niche sports content website, http://norwichcity.myfootballwriter.com.This piece is republished from Rick's OutWithABang blog with his permission.

 

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