Local news innovation: two examples from Europe

Two great examples of community engaged journalism from Belgium and Italy.

Adam Tinworth
Adam Tinworth

Liveblogged notes from a morning session of News Impact Summit Cardiff in October 2018. Prone to error, inaccuracy and howling crimes against grammar and syntax.

Marianna Bruschi

Head of Visual Lab, GEDI Digital

GEDI has a group of 13 local newspapers based in Italy. They are not a travel agency, but they are on the road with their readers.

The aim of their membership project is audience engagement. They had 200,000 registered users when they started across 12 papers.

They're working on moving people from a free membership to a paid subscriptions, working paper by paper. They have a central team supporting the project, and the small local teams. They offer exclusive content for subscribers, and a growing stable of newsletters.

Events are a key part of the strategy - and are always sold out. They also get the readers involved - they asked their members to send in speed tests on their broadband as apart of an investigative project on the broadband gap.

They maintain relationship  with the readers through a Facebook Group. The local newspaper can be a glue to an existing solid local community. Fundementally, they see this as a process of restarting listening to the local communities, and allowing that to reshape their journalism.

They needed new words in their "metrics dictionary" to analyse the success of the project, in terms of bringing back logged in members.

Camille Pollie

Community Manager, OpenVRT

A couple of years ago, Pollie applied to be a community manager, because organising events for like minded people would be cool. Did she have training or preparation? No. But it worked.

At OpenVRT they allow young creators in Flanders  to come together, connect and learn from each other.

Be accessible - through Facebook groups, or by physically going where they hang out. Make events low cost, and put their heroes on stage.

Allow the creators to find the spotlight - they have a database of work. Talk about the topics that matter to them, and focus on truly digital work, not TV or radio imitators.

But how do we make that community work for VRT? They stared co-creating with them. VRT is hard o crack as a young creative, but equally, it needs new ideas to break out of creative ruts. For example, they offered out the second series of their YouTube channel for classical music newbies and ended up collaborating with Anton Olbrehts. They worked with three students who wanted to do a series on training for racing with a fixed gear bike. The first edit sucked. So they got more involved with the process. The third episode is nearly edited, and will be released shortly.

To make this work, you need a network of like-minded people within the organisation to support your work. You need ot expect a certain amount of failure, and navigating the balance between freedom and control will be important in getting good results.

community engagementlocal journalismnews impact summitmembership models

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Adam is a lecturer, trainer and writer. He's been a blogger for over 20 years, and a journalist for more than 30. He lectures on audience strategy and engagement at City, University of London.