So you want to be a hyperlocal blogger

I recently announced I would be retiring my post as the blogger behind My Southborough sometime in May 2013. That means I’m on the hunt for someone crazy enough dedicated enough to take over the helm.

If you’re interested in the job, but have questions, read on.

Uh, hyperlocal?

It’s a buzzword used to describe activities that are focused on a small, well-defined geographic area. In this case, we’re talking Southborough. Everything posted about on My Southborough has some direct connection to Southborough, whether it’s a municipal issue, an event taking place in Southborough, or some exciting thing a Southborough resident did. With limited exception, you won’t find stories on the blog about Westborough, or Hopkinton, or Framingham. There are other hyperlocal sites for those hyperlocalities. What we care about here is Southborough.

You grew up in Southborough. Does that mean I need to be a townie to run the blog?

Absolutely not. I did grow up in Southborough, but then I lived away for a long time. One of the reasons I started the blog after I moved back home was because I had no idea what was going on in town, what the important issues were, how the town worked. That perspective as a newbie was helpful in the early days because it forced me to ask a lot of questions. The more questions you ask, the better the information you can pass along to readers. It’s a good thing.

What you do need is a love for Southborough. From the start I intended the blog to be a positive force in the community. Do we use it to question policies and challenge decisions? Sure. Does it get a bit testy from time to time? Yes. That’s not a bad thing, for at its heart, the blog is about building the community, not tearing it down.

So, no, you don’t have to be a townie, but you do have to live in Southborough. Others may argue this, but I think to do hyperlocal well, you have to be personally invested in the community. You have to have skin in the game, so to speak.

How much time does it take?

I haven’t ever really kept track, but I probably spend somewhere in the neighborhood of 3 hours each weekday writing posts, managing the editorial calendar, and responding to requests and emails. In any given week, I’ll spend another 2-4 hours attending meetings in the evening.

When big things happen like storms, or someone threatening to close the Swap Shop, the time commitment can ratchet up.

Will I get rich?

Probably not, at least not if you measure “rich” by how much money you have. But that’s not to say there aren’t revenue opportunities. Ad space on My Southborough is more often than not fully-subscribed, so the demand is there, and I suspect someone with a bit more sales chutzpah than I have would be able to do a lot more with the advertising program.

Do I have to like writing?

Yeah, it helps.

Do I have to be a good speller?

Ha! Have you red my blog?

Do I have to know HTML and CSS and PHP and LOL and SQL to run a blog?

Not necessarily, but you do need to be comfortable working your way around technology. The blog is built on WordPress. Knowing a bit of HTML and CSS is helpful, but not essential.

I use Facebook and Twitter to help get the word out. A smartphone is an indispensable blogging tool. If the phrase “social media” makes you want to run for the hills, blogging might not be the right job for you.

I have really strong opinions about things, and I like to tell everyone what those opinions are. Is that okay?

Having a strong voice is a good thing for a blogger, but in my experience, it’s better to think of yourself as a neutral facilitator and leave the opining to readers and commenters. Perhaps you should consider running for public office instead.

What’s the most challenging thing about running a hyperlocal blog?

Commenters. The tone of discourse on the Internet isn’t always what I wish it would be. I want people to be able to discuss topics openly, but sometimes it’s hard to click ‘Publish’ on certain comments.

What’s the best part about running a hyperlocal blog?

Commenters. The fact that members of our community value the town enough to contribute to a honest conversation about it, and that My Southborough has become one of the places to have that conversation, is something I’m incredibly proud of.

This all sounds great, but I’m not sure I have the time do it all on my own, you know?

I sure do. I won’t lie, covering the town of Southborough is a lot of work – it’s also incredibly rewarding – but there’s no reason you have to do it alone. Just like a real newspaper, having a group of people run the blog, an editorial board if you will, would be a great option and one that I’m totally open to. So, go talk to your friends and see if you can drum up some interest. Besides, how fun would it be to have weekly editorial meetings over coffee and donuts, or maybe wine and cheese? You know, just like a real newspaper.

I’m interested. What do I do next?

Email me and we’ll talk.

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