Fitzroyalty is a hyperlocal blog. Its primary focus is the smallest and most densely populated suburb in the city of Melbourne, Australia. Fitzroy is a viable place to develop a hyperlocal platform about because it is a natural community. Residents and visitors have a strong understanding of its unique culture and value its combination of art, style, commerce, community and politics.
Because it attracts many artists and creative people to its physical territory it enables a viable virtual community formed from the collective online expression of its citizens. Some US cities have already developed this critical mass of user generated content; in contrast, very few places in Australia have the capacity to build a viable critical mass of online media.
There is much debate about the potential and future of hyperlocal news. Much of this is concerned with monetisation of hyperlocal content. Fitzroyalty is not concerned with making money. It is an experiment that builds value for me in what I learn from its creation and development.
I retain doubts about the validity of the user generated content oriented business model. Collaboration can be powerful but from my own experience, not everyone has the intelligence, literacy, technical skills and initiative to create quality content. Much user generated content is of low quality, and the standard will continue to decline as the web becomes more pervasive and accessible by the kind of people currently starring in reality television. I have my doubts therefore about whether automated aggregation would work; it could produce stream of useless babble.
Context is crucial. Fitzroyalty is about engaging with the Fitzroy community. When I review a restaurant or business I make very effort to inform them of my review, but I don’t accept offers of free meals in exchange for good reviews. I also like to post comments in blogs drawing attention to the links between other reviews.
Several technologies are emerging that enable new ways to consume and create media and to provide convenient access to contextually relevant information.
Mapping is becoming integral to hyperlocal information. Maps provide context to text and images, and help organise spatial information in a way that can also visualise time and history. Where I have posted about a location repeatedly, such as revisiting a restaurant over time, these posts are arranged in descending chronological order within the bubble attached to a single map flag defining that location.
Location aware devices such as GPS and wifi enabled cell or mobile phones and portable devices have the power to map their users’ locations. Location aware devices will increase the value of location specific content, particularly if that content can be accessed in real time in its place of origin.
Fitzroyalty provides location specific content through geotagging. Most Fitzroy related posts and selected others are geotagged and mapped on each category archive page.
The utility of information and the demands of audiences will ensure that legacy media publishing companies will become more like blogs.