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Sept. 9, 2015, 7:24 a.m.
Business Models

It’s tough times for local news in the U.S. But things are worse in the U.K., according to a report released Wednesday. U.K. hyperlocal sites have received much less funding than U.S. hyperlocal sites, while facing all the same problems — newspaper closures, the growth of Facebook and Google as news sources — that local news does this side of the Atlantic.

In 2014, the Media Standards Trust estimated that less than £5 million (about $7.7 million) was invested in hyperlocal sites in the U.K. between 2012 and 2014, compared to $400 million invested in such sites in the U.S. between 2011 and 2013. (The U.S. has about five times as many people as the U.K.)

“The sector has no degree of long-term certainty,” Damian Radcliffe, the report’s author, said in a statement. “For too many community publishers, their existence remains hand-to-mouth.” The report, “Where Are We Now? UK Hyperlocal Media and Community Journalism in 2015,” will be presented at a hyperlocal news conference at Cardiff University on Wednesday.

The report, a collaboration between Cardiff University’s School of Journalism and charity Nesta, contains little new research. Instead, it pulls together findings from other reports on the state of hyperlocal news, by organizations like Ofcom, to provide an overall landscape. Here’s what that landscape looks like:

— There are at least 408 active hyperlocal sites in the U.K., though that number is probably low. An updated count is coming this fall.

— One in 10 people claimed they used local community website or apps “at least weekly” in 2014, up from 7 percent in 2013, though “because hyperlocal is a vague label disliked by many content producers — and not necessarily understood by audiences — consumption levels may well be underestimated.”

— “The most common topic covered by hyperlocal media is community activities, e.g. festivals, clubs and societies, local councils and the services they provide.” These topics are also most popular with audiences, along with “local weather and traffic.”

— Most hyperlocal publishers are paying all the costs associated with running their sites themselves.

— The main source of income for most hyperlocal sites is advertising (that’s also true in the U.S.) — though, as a 2013 Nesta report on the hyperlocal advertising market noted, big brands are likely to “place their ads on location-based platforms rather than spend money with geographically specific services. Facebook and Google are much more likely to collect advertising spend by providing content relevant to your location than, say, a blog about Birmingham.”

On Tuesday, the BBC announced plans to revamp its own local news coverage by sending 100 new reporters to local papers around the country.

You can read the full hyperlocal news report here and follow Wednesday’s conference on Twitter here.

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