Hyperlocal websites and the information architecture of large media websites

Update March 2018: This article was written back in July 2016 when WordPress was the only content management system I had used and the biggest site I’d worked on was a couple of hundred pages.

About 3 months later I moved from my corporate job to working in higher education. I’ve since worked on a website with thousands of pages, a different CMS and 100s of content owners – who can be the hardest part of web content.

Hyperlocal and large media websites are topics I’m still fascinated by, perhaps even more so now I’ve worked on an exceptionally large website. But I’d probably build the website in a different CMS. Ideally a headless CMS pushing out to a Jekyll or similar static site generator. As this would allow more complex/robust information architecture and workflow.

Also, to fully run the experiment I’d want to build a team of writers who would help create enough content to build a large media website.

Anyways, that’s my little update. Please enjoy the article.
– All the best, Vancano

If you’re anything like me then you’re fascinated with the recent changes in the media industry.

5 years ago I would have told you journalism is the worst job I could take as a writer. (That’s me speaking for me, not me speaking for all writers.) But now I wish I’d at least taken one journalism module at university.

Here’s what’s happening:

Newspapers are struggling to establish a business model that works in the information age. So much so that many small local papers have folded.

On the flip side brands and content marketers are taking advantage by publishing their own media publications. This is nothing new as media smart companies have published their own media publications for generations.

That’s the brief overview.

Lets go back to those small local papers that have folded. They served a real purpose to the community they were built around which is why it’s a shame they couldn’t keep running.

Thankfully a number of community groups, citizens and unemployed journalists have filled the void left by hyperlocal newspapers by creating hyperlocal websites.
Some are doing fantastic jobs while others are having the same struggles as the newspapers. While others are thinly veiled landing pages for marketing companies.

All the marketing companies do is buy a domain name that includes their town or city, throw up a website and spash some “local news” onto the site. Then plaster it with links to their products.

My guess is these websites do quite well because the marketing companies know how to get their websites to rank.

Can anything be done?

Bryan Clark, the founder of Rainmaker Digital and Copyblogger, wrote two articles back in 2012 and 2013 about how he made a lot of money from similar websites back in 2003-2005.

His primary focus is through selling real estate leads which seems to be very profitable. Or if you run a local business such as a shop or club then you could use the website to help attract customers.

Go and read Bryan’s articles if you’d like to learn more.

My wife runs a dance school and I’m a content marketer so there would be some use in such a website for us, plus many of my friends and family have recently set up their own microbusinesses.

But really, this is my interest…

I’m a bit of an information architecture and media nerd.

I’ve already established a solid WordPress stack that’s now used for Pen Creative clients. But these clients sites are generally simple brochure lead gen sites sites.

I’m now interested in how large media sites such as the BBC build their platforms and break up different brands/sections under one domain.

Secondly I want to learn more about how information architecture and WordPress can be used to build large niche content sites.

So I’m in the process of launching a new experiment to learn as I do.

In this experiment I’ve chosen to build a hyperlocal content site for the town I live in.

But this won’t be a news website.

It’s an information site.


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