John Bull’s early hyperlocal strategy
I was on holiday last week in Cornwall and spent a very happy hour in the museum at St Ives.
Amongst the eclectic mix of mining and seafaring memorabilia was the front page of ‘The Western Mail’ from about 1890. Reading it I was struck by what it contained compared to what it didn’t.
It certainly didn’t have much news. Only one part of one column, at the bottom of the left hand side of the page was news. The rest was information vital to the times; agricultural prices, market dates, tide times, ship departures, cargoes, jobs and vacancies, etc.
It struck me again that ‘John Bull’ my imaginary entrepreneurial printer from two centuries ago was smartly giving people what they wanted from his printing press. He was establishing himself as the best source of local information in the market. Something contemporary hyperlocal publishers may want to think about.
The idea that newspapers have always been about news, or that ‘news’ is the ‘compelling’ content that people want above all else may not only not be true, but quite misleading.