WTSP-Ch. 10 to develop hyperlocal websites as part of national program
St. Petersburg CBS affiliate WTSP-Ch. 10 could present dozens of "hyperlocal" websites by the end of the year, featuring news and information specifically tailored to various communities across the Tampa Bay area, as part of a national program announced by owner Gannett Broadcasting in 10 cities across the country.
But don't ask WTSP general manager Ken Tonning too many questions about how this is going to happen. Tonning said he found out about the project about the same time as the rest of the world, as Gannett announced Monday plans to develop the websites with technology and hyperlocal ad sales company DataSphere.
"We're still getting pieces of information," said Tonning, who wasn't sure how many sites would be created, how many online editors they might hire to maintain the site or who would actually employ them. "But our goal is to represent the community as accurately as possible. It's a way to present content at another level."
The hyperlocal websites created by DataSphere client KOMO-TV in Seattle offer an example, featuring about 50 different sites centered on communities throughout the area, filled with newsy items created by staff and a network of amateur bloggers recruited from the communities covered.
Of course, such sites also offer opportunities for hyperlocal advertising; one page on KOMO's site featured 12 different advertisers -- small businesses which probably couldn't afford to advertise in the main website or TV broadcasts, but might find ads targeted to their community more cost-effective.
The St. Petersburg Times is developing a similar plan for hyperlocal news, headed by former Neighborhood Times editor Sandra Gadsden. The newspaper is training a group of neighborhood news watchers -- a mix of college students and area residents -- who will take five courses on journalism at the Poynter Institute and be supervised by professionals at the newspaper.
WTSP tried something similar two years ago, when it recruited a cadre of people from the community to serve as citizen journalists, giving them video cameras and a small bit of compensation to run out and film events which might be used in news broadcasts. But the program seemed to falter and I can't remember seeing a significant story unearthed by the citizen journalists.
This new hyperlocal website idea has two things going for it that the earlier citizen journalism project didn't; the back of corporate parent Gannett and advertising revenue tied to the project. This is also something Gannett developed for its newspapers several years ago.
Tonning said WTSP expects to roll out its sites at the end of the year, among the final third of Gannett stations launching sties, including outlets in Washington D.C., Atlanta and Jacksonville.