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The best hyperlocal sites on the web

*This post is an assignment for my “Journalism in a free society” course. This week’s assignment calls for a compare and contrast of my choice of three news organization startups (I used this list from the Columbia Journalism Review to choose which three to analyze). My focus here is on hyperlocal sites as I continue industry research for my own entrepreneurial news startup.


This non-profit news organization caught my attention because of its remarkable roots. Founded by three soon-to-be college graduates in 2005, it was launched under the name The Common Language Project. The trio saw a need for a daily news website that provided an outlet for the high number of immigrants populating Seattle, Washington (about one-fourth of Seattleites are foreign born). A dynamic community of students, foodies, travelers, immigrants, healthcare workers and artists make up the voices behind this news startup. The Seattle Globalist has offices at the University of Washington where it employs a staff of nine writers and editors—most of whom are recipients of several prestigious journalism and media awards.

The content: In short, their coverage aims to connect Seattle’s diverse population to the rest of the world—“hyperglobal” reporting, as they call it. The Seattle Globalist publishes content in seven categories: Arts & Culture, Politics, Perspectives, Development, Food, Travel and Columns, as well as a calendar of community cultural events. Articles and columns are good because they’re written by Seattleites who have a unique and global perspective. No small-minded ideas here.

The standout quality: The Seattle Globalist offers an apprenticeship program for budding journalists from the ages of 17-20. Participants of the program receive training and guidance in writing, photography, video and design as well as bylines on The Seattle Globalist website.

berkeleyside-logoThis independent local news site in Berkeley, California is a fantastic example of a hyperlocal news organization—although it could take some pointers from The Seattle Globalist to bring a more global perspective to their reporting. Berkeleyside was founded in 2009 by a trio of veteran journalists and has been a pioneer of local online journalism ever since. The site won the Society of Professional Journalists’ Northern California ‘Excellence in Journalism Award for Community Journalism’ in 2013. 

The content: Most of the content on Berkeleyside is in the format of short news blurbs—it feels like the online version of a print newspaper. With a small staff of five reporters and editors, Berkeleyside publishes content on food, artists, politics, culture and local hard news. In addition to the permanent staff, the site employs a group of freelancers from the area. The staff has experimented with native advertising in the past to involve local merchants and, lately, sponsored events like last week’s ‘Idea Festival’ which brought together scores of prominent thinkers for an open exchange of ideas and perspectives.

The standout quality: Berkeleyside‘s greatest asset is perhaps its strategic partnerships with local news organizations KQED and The San Francisco Chronicle. They all work in conjunction to share content and resources, upping revenue and readership/page views for all parties involved—a great solution to the radical downsizing that’s taken place at traditional newspapers and radio stations in the area. Berkeleyside has truly figured out how to use their local resources to maximize audience reach and create a cooperative, non-competitive relationship that benefits the community and its news organizations.

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DNAinfo New York is the leading hyperlocal site of New York City (the news organization has a branch in Chicago as well). The site was founded in 2009 by Joe Ricketts, who also provides the organization’s funding. DNAinfo (DNA = Digital Network Associates) relies on its 40+ editorial team—as well as sales, creative and marketing and tech and design teams—to produce truthful, fun and useful content accessible across all digital platforms. The site also transparently states that it aims to make money in the process.

The content: Articles are in a traditional news writing style but tend to be shorter than a typical print article would be. Between original content and aggregation from local sources, DNAinfo seems to have writers and contributors in all corners of the city with incredible connections and audience reach. While the site lacks an extensive archive of investigative or in-depth reporting, it’s OK because that’s not their selling point: they’re focused on accurate, interesting and up-to-the-minute watchdog reporting.

The standout quality: DNAinfo is chockfull of content that fully encompasses the news spectrum: health & wellness, culture, shopping, politics, education, transportation, etc. The site also has five neighborhood categories within New York City, filing even more exclusive news and content.


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