When it comes to independent community news publications, they don't come more northerly than...
Llanelli Loses a Star Buts Gains a Hyperlocal Beacon
By Matt Abbott | 22nd Mar 2017
As one door closes, so another one opens. It was announced earlier this month that the Llanelli Star was closing its website as part of an expansion of its sister titles’ online brand, Wales Online.
The Llanelli Star was one of the first UK local newspapers to go online, in 1998. While the print title, founded in 1909, will continue its weekly publication, the two-decade-old digital version of the brand will surely be missed in the community.
Thankfully, there are still a few Llanelli residents who feel the town deserves its own news website, one that isn’t indistinguishable from Swansea.
Alan Evans set up Llanelli Online earlier this month (March) after working as a freelance journalist for over 10 years, and it’s become an overnight success.
Alan says: “Within a week of going live, I had so much traffic going to the site that it crashed.
Llanelli Online calls itself the one stop shop for hyperlocal news, sports and events and, Alan says, will not shy away from the occasional political scandal.
“Like many hyperlocals, Llanelli Online was born out of protest,” Alan says.
“There’s a huge conflict of interest between newspapers getting paid handsomely by councils for publishing notices, and at the same time refusing to scrutinise their behaviour.
“What’s happening in the White House, is surely happening here too, on a lesser scale, but no less troubling.
“The erosion of local media and the growth of council press offices means the media no longer has the access it used to have, and that results in a lack of transparency.
“We need to reinvest in investigative journalism at the local level. That’s why I set up Llanelli Online.”
Alan is currently running the website on his own but has plans to take on some interns from Cardiff University in the Summer.
He says: “I need all the help I can get. At the moment I’m just limping along with the help of a handful of advertisers.
“It’s clear that the future is hyperlocal. It’s where the demand is. The question is, whether the support can be found to match that demand.”
Instead of distracting banner ads and pop-ups, Alan believes the way to entice advertisers and to engage readers is through subtle, carefully placed ads.
Each article on Llanelli Online is brought to you in association with a particular advertiser. Similar in style to native advertising, the method employs a seamless transition that Alan says appeals to clients.
Alan says: “We believe that the mainstream media are not reflecting the needs of local people and we believe we have come up with an alternative, which offers hyperlocal content.
“This is achieved by getting out and about and speaking to people at the heart of the town and surrounding communities.
“The contacts within the community and the relationships and trust enables a hyperlocal journalist to get what mainstream journalists cannot.
“The editorial judgement is also a crucial element and the old motto reporting without fear, favour or prejudice is one, which should hang on every editor’s wall.”
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