Hyperlocal revenues in the UK and Europe: the road to sustainability
Over the past few years, Nesta and its partners have published research and a range of resources to support hyperlocal media publishers to innovate and grow.
And while there’s a growing number of examples of innovative practice, and an increasing relevance around hyperlocal publishers due to the shrinking footprint of traditional print and broadcast media, our research has highlighted key challenges concerning sustainability (financial as well as human resources), growth and ‘findability’.
As the sector continues to grow and become more diverse, a more robust study of how hyperlocal publishers are monetising their services is essential. Therefore, during 2015 into early 2016 we undertook an analysis of current and emerging revenue streams and the digital technologies that are facilitating many of these.
Our research responds directly to recommendations that call for business models to be “further analysed so that lessons learned from these case studies can inspire, and inform entrepreneurs and other publishers”.
A European perspective
To date, Europe hasn’t benefitted from a comprehensive study of the current and emerging revenue streams available to hyperlocal publishers, and the new opportunities afforded by digital technology.
Therefore, we worked with strategic organisations and selected 35 case studies from the UK, the Netherlands, France, Belgium and Sweden – as these are territories with a similar hyperlocal media landscape in regards to growth, challenges and innovation – to find out how these publishers are monetising their services and which revenue streams are proving most effective.
The objective is to inform hyperlocal publishers, from across Europe and beyond, as to what different methods and strategies are available to them, to help them develop more sustainable and resilient business models.
The case studies we selected all met the definition of hyperlocal in some way. A content analysis and semi-structured interview was carried out with each organisation. Although not a representative sample, this approach has also been used in similar international journalism business model studies.
The report takes as a starting point that hyperlocal media services are often on different trajectories. Therefore, in order to pass on the most value to other publishers, we present services that are:
- Viable: These services are fulfilling a demand or perceived need for content.
- Sustainable: These services are able to sustain a flow of content to meet that need over time, and likely to draw some ‘money’ as a wage, cover expenses of contributors, and/or cover costs of equipment, web hosting, printing etc.
- Resilient: These services can sustain a flow of content and make profit, or grow/scale.
The report includes:
- An overview of the hyperlocal ecosystem, including a country-by-country analysis.
- An overview of the different legal business structures available to hyperlocal media services, including the potential advantages and limitations of these.
- An analysis of current and emerging revenue streams being used by hyperlocal publishers, with a focus on 35 case studies from Europe.
- An assessment of which of these are most feasible, reliable or lucrative.
- An examination of changes to the wider advertising and online industry.
- Emerging trends and innovations in revenue creation and capture in and beyond Europe.
- Recommendations for policymakers, industry and hyperlocal publishers in relation to gaps, opportunities and areas of growth.
This research is aimed at online-first (but not necessarily online-exclusive) hyperlocal practitioners in the UK and in Europe. We hope that hyperlocal publishers can use the findings and guidance to improve their ability to provide news and information to their local communities for the long term.
We also provide evidence and recommendations to wider industry and policymakers in Europe to better support hyperlocal media, in regards to the digital single market, tax regulation and organisational structure, and regulation of other areas of the digital and media sectors.
Download our new report here: Hyperlocal revenues in the UK and Europe
This is the final project produced by Nesta for the Destination Local programme. The programme formally concluded in spring 2016. To discuss this research with the authors, email Clare Cook (on Twitter at @cecook) or Kathryn Geels (on Twitter at @girlondon).