During the last few years, the prospects for Hallpressen and other media companies of the same size and character have changed dramatically. Social media has changed the way news is being consumed, making competition for the audience’s attention tougher than ever.

Organisations that were once the primary source of local news have in some cases become peripheral players that have lost touch with the audience and their basic information needs.

Hallpressen, a media company consisting of 17 newspapers and news sites, covers a vast geographical area of southern Sweden. Historically, Hallpressen has been the primary source of local news in the region — in many cases even the only source — and kept close bonds with its readers.

But that relationship is changing.

Our challenge is to address the questions today’s audience is asking itself: Why would I read the local newspaper, when the neighbour already Instagrammed a bunch of photographs from the last football game? Why would I head to the news Web site when half of the community is already on Facebook, discussing the fire that started twenty minutes ago?

The way that we and many other companies see it, the only way out of the so-called media crisis is an increased local focus. The need for local news is just as big as before — but the problem is that our traditional platforms and ways of reaching the audience are outdated.

For a long time, we took for granted that our content and our long-life presence (in Hallpressen’s case 150 years), would be more than enough to keep old readers and to attract new ones. Now we know that’s just not the case.

That is why Hallpressen partnered with Infomaker and headed to the drawing board, with the goal of developing a hyper-local news feed. In early 2017, we launched the feature “Near me.”

The Hallpressen team creates hyper-local news stories that allow readers to customise the geography of their news feed.
The Hallpressen team creates hyper-local news stories that allow readers to customise the geography of their news feed.

As the names implies, this feature generates news feeds based on geographical interests. Every article written by Hallpressen is given a geotag and placed on a map in our news apps. After that, it is up to the user to choose which geographical areas he or she wants to follow.

Based on selection, the user can get news and newsflashes from the whole city, or narrow it down to a specific street. Suddenly, the user is in control of the feed and, in some ways, is the editor of their own news.

The “Near me” feed is a first step to fully personalising Hallpressen’s content. The feed is not controlled by algorithms, but by the readers themselves.

That distinction is very important to Hallpressen as we, like many other media companies, want to shift focus from shrinking ad revenues to paid content-related ones. The focus is no longer on nourishing clickbait journalism, as the value of page views is decreasing. Instead, the focus is to create online content that users are willing to pay for.

We are convinced that this makes us better journalists and brings us closer to our readers. We try harder to find better local news stories and to provide the right content for the right audience. Since the launch of “Near me,” the number of downloaded apps has increased rapidly, and the number of “Near me” streams has exceeded our expectations.

Screenshots of the Hallpressen "Near me" stream on its news app shows how readers can customise their news experience.
Screenshots of the Hallpressen "Near me" stream on its news app shows how readers can customise their news experience.

We look forward to continuing the further development of this concept. We recently launched a feature that enables users to select and follow different tags or subjects of interest. In this way, the readers will keep telling us what they want. It’s up to us to keep delivering.