Hyperlocal news and Chicago Tribune’s Triblocal
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Where is the majority of money for media? It’s all about local advertising and traffic.
Chicago suburbanites are leading the way in this trend and have access to their very own hyperlocal news site, Chicago Tribune’s Triblocal. In addition to finding local news, subscribers can submit and share their own findings.
I recently had the chance to online chat with managing editor of Triblocal, Kyle Leonard. Here’s a recap on why Trib Local is taking on the world of localized media.
How many suburbs does Triblocal represent?
“Triblocal has 87 web sites covering 100 communities in the suburbs of Chicago.”
How does Triblocal function with the Chicago Tribune print and online editions?
“We work independently of the Tribune in many ways but cooperate whenever possible. The relationship between the Tribune newsroom and Triblocal is growing and getting stronger. When we have reporter written stories that are suitable for Chicagotribune.com they are posted and link back to Tribocal. We tip off the larger newspaper for stories that might be suitable for them and we have had a few stories generated by Triblocal staffers that have appeared in the Tribune’s main news section. However, since we are delivered with the Tribune we try not to duplicate efforts.”
How was the Triblocal concept developed? How long has it been a functional platform?
“Triblocal.com began in April of 2007 and was studied and planned for 2 years prior to launch. The concept was created to allow the Tribune to be relevant to people living far away from downtown Chicago with a relatively small financial investment. Tribune representative visited Denver’s Yourhub.com to study the concept.”
How is the Chicago Tribune monetizing Triblocal?
“Monetizing Triblocal.com comes from reverse publishing content from the web into 21 weekly newspapers that serve clusters of communities each of which have its own web site. We function like any other weekly newspaper in terms of ad sales.”
What are plans for the future of Triblocal?
“We are planning for 2010 right now. We experienced rapid growth in 2009, adding 11 newspapers from January to Oct. 1. We plan to redesign the newspaper to make it more reader friendly, update the web site (we have already redesigned the web site twice) when needed and add functions that will help readers as well as advertisers. We may expand into more communities as well.”
What does your monthly traffic look like?
“We are averaging about 500,00 page views a month and it grows significantly every month. While that seems small in the world of web sites it is very significant given the hyperlocal nature of each web site.”
How many local contributors do you have? What about journalists dedicated to Trib Local?
“We currently have 30,000 registered users. Being registered means you can post stories, photos and events as well as comment on stories. We have a community manager for each newspaper who is responsible for weekly production of newspaper, community relations and some stories and photos. There are nine reporters who concentrate on news coverage, photos and community relations. There are two asisstant managing editors and myself.”
Have any Trib Local stories been picked up by the Chicago Tribune?
“We placed a story in Tribune about possible open meetings act violations in Buffalo Grove. Our reporter worked with Tribune reporter Jeff Long on Freedom of Information act requests and the story appeared on page 3 of Tribune. Another page three story was written by Patrick Rollens, a Triblocal reporter, about Lake Geneva installing a statue of the inventor of Dungeons and Dragons. A third story appeared in Tribune by Triblocal reporter Mick Swasko about a local youth who developed a cell phone app for math flash cards.”
What social media and online efforts have you integrated with traditional journalism?
“We use Facebook and twitter to seek out sources, promote our local stories and keep in touch with members of our community. We currently have about 10,000 people following our reporters on twitter.”
Have you seen other news outlets adapt/adopt a similar model?
“Since we launched we have seen a lot of media outlets taking on elements of what we do but no one has taken full advantage of UGC like we do.”
What do you see as additional needs for the platform?
“I think our web site is unlimited in its potential. I would like to see more social networking ability within our site so people could follow other’s who have similar interests. In addition by working within our communities at grass roots level we can have more contributors sharing stories to give the sites even more local relevance. The exciting part of Triblocal is the ability for people within the community to have an outlet for their news without someone filtering it or ignoring it. By having people post directly to www.triblocal.com their content is available for people to read and share. We may use it in newspaper after editing and fact checking. By having all this content there is no need to send reporters to smaller events and they can concentrate on writing harder news stories that require a trained journalist. In addition the site becomes a “tip service” as people share their ideas and concerns we can develop a picture of the community and serve it better.”
Kyle Leonard is Managing Editor of Triblocal.com. Named to this position in February 2007, Leonard is responsible for the editorial direction of both the website and weekly publications and overseeing expansion into new markets.
He has a more than 20-year history in community journalism. Prior to joining the Tribune he was the Niche Publications Manager at Pioneer Press Newspapers, part of the Sun Times Newsgroup. He was responsible for creating an internet presence for publications created in his department and during his tenure introduced a number of new products as well as overseeing the expansion of the department to sister publications throughout the suburban Chicago marketplace and northern Indiana.
You can follow him on Twitter at @Kyleonard.