BBC Connecting Communities Conference


The conference took place in the BBC’s new Quay House.

I went to the BBC’s Connecting Communities Conference at MediaCity in Salford last week. I sat in on several good sessions, but I thought I’d pick out a couple of points which I found particularly interesting.

Dave Harte of Birmingham City University, and the Bournville Village hyperlocal site, presented some of the early findings of research that he’s involved with into hyperlocal in the UK.

He’s discovered that there are 432 sites defined as “active” – meaning they’d published at least one post since the start of this year. During a ten-day sampling period in May, 313 of those produced 3,819 stories, with one being published somewhere every two minutes during weekday daytimes.

Most interestingly I thought was Dave’s finding that about 20% of the sites produced roughly 60% of the total material. So really, it seems we’ve got about 90 hyperlocal sites in the UK currently producing a comprehensive and regularly updated news and information service, making hyperlocal a notable if still small part of the media landscape. Hopefully the work of Dave and his colleagues will reveal a lot more in the coming months.

Something else I enjoyed came in the session on money and resources, something I’ve recently drawn on my experiences with Saddleworth News to write about (last week, my book chapter turned up in a messily edited form on the Guardian website). Rick Waghorn of Addiply was on the panel, and he mentioned a pioneering project involving the Diocese of Norwich, in which parish churches are being used to roll out proper broadband to rural communities.

Making broadband better and more affordable is the most important challenge facing everyone interested in using technology to improve our communities, especially away from the big cities. Maybe with the help of the Bishop of Norwich, we’ll get there a little faster than we might have thought.

0 responses to “BBC Connecting Communities Conference

  1. The use of church spires to act as broadband access relay points to service rural villages is an interesting concept, and one which has been around for a while. Hereford based Allpay have a number of installations, and have been talking to my local church about offering their service in the village.
    As usual, these things are all about the money, and as much as the improvement in connectivity is welcome, and at a reasonable (?) £29 per month for the 10 Mb service, they are offering the church a whopping (!) 50p per month per subscriber – woo hoo!. Yes, they have to recoup investment, show returns to shareholders etc etc, but isn’t at least a 10% commission a reasonable amount ?
    The church will publicise the service in the Parish magazine, and spread the word through church groups and so on to boost the user base, and we will utilise a space in the village shop as an ‘internet corner’ so that inexperienced users can be shown the virtues of the connected world.
    With their current pricing model, it is doubtful that their offer will be accepted, which really would be a shame for everyone.

    • Tim,

      Interesting that you mention the parish magazine; which is stuffed full of what…?

      Hyperlocal adverts.

      Now bring them online via portal play and what we do here… and you can *start* to explore alternative/additional revenue streams that encourage hyperlocal marketing activities within those communities. A hub of local commerce as well as connectivity…

      Best etc

  2. Rick,
    Saw your pres at the conference, very interesting.
    Enjoyed the debates about hyperlocal & print media sustainability too. especially as our church itself is under a ‘sustainability review’ by the diocese, and ways of increasing income as well as congregation sizes are being debated.

    Fortunately, in our case, both are strong so although it may be tempting to take the money, we can be a bit more circumspect. In our village, with around 100 subscribers at 50p per subscriber, the monthly income would be less than our plate collection, so hardly a compelling proposition.

    The church has always been about sharing so we see no reason why the broadband providers shouldn’t share more of the revenue with the churches for use of a community asset.

    More interesting for us would be to flip the model, and let the village run it on a collaborative comsumption basis, creating installation & maintenance work for our micro businesses, allowing us to set our own pricing, and forcing everyone into the village shop at least once per month to pay their bill. And we could put wireless devices anywhere in the village with free usage for the ‘digitally excluded’.
    Will it happen ? Well, we can only ask …

  3. Tim,

    Good stuff; have you an existing local content platform in your village?

    Something akin to Ben and his platform?

    For me, part of the plan is to stitch that together in a wireless/mobile portal play; and then stitch village ads in and around it… A fiver a month; simples.

    But it can all start to cover ongoing costs for the ‘connection’….

    Best etc

  4. Pingback: Whilst I’ve been away | HYPER LOCAL NEWS

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