About the Project

Dr. Michelle Ferrier
Associate Dean for Innovation, Research, and Creative Activity in the Scripps College of Communication at Ohio University
Professor Ferrier's Spring 2013 COM 100 Communications in a Global Age Students at Elon University, Elon, NC

In April and May 2013, students at Elon University in COM 100 Communications in a Global Age, conducted an analysis of more than 130 online news sites compiled from the Local Independent Online News Publishers members as of April 2013 and the Columbia Journalism Review Guide to Online News Startups. The goal was to evaluate hyperlocal online news sites, their content, their geographic reach and how well these sites serve their region's residents with fresh news and information.

This wiki contains several pages for each site analyzed:
  • Site Summary Pages: A site can be found using the search field in the navigation screen, or scroll down in the navigation bar to find a site name.
  • Site Appendix: Called URL_Appendix, this page contains the 14 screen grabs of the homepage that were used for analysis of the visuals of the site.

In addition, we generated two aggregate pages for the wiki data:
  • Geographic Reach: This page includes the zip codes for the geographic region covered by the site, the 2010 census data for those zip codes and images from Alexa.com with site-specific demographic data.
  • Research Summary Page: On this page, students ranked the sites they analyzed on a Likert scale for each of the research questions posed.

Our research questions:

Quantitative Analysis:
R1: Do the site demographics match the coverage area demographics?

Qualitative Analysis:
R2: How well do the site visuals match the coverage area demographics?
R3: How well does the site deliver on providing news and information to its geographic audience?

In the site summary pages, the students used a cultural studies approach as outlined by Dr. Paul du Gay, Stuart Hall, Linda Janes, Hugh Mackay and Keith Negus in Doing Cultural Studies: The Story of the Sony Walkman, Open University, 2003. SAGE Publications. For an introduction to the approach,
review pages intro to page 40: http://www.amazon.com/Doing-Cultural-Studies-Walkman-Identities/dp/0761954023#reader_0761954023

Their work is part of the Media Deserts Project, a larger research initiative to provide a climate map of the media ecosystem (Principal Investigator: Dr. Michelle Ferrier). The Media Desert Project examines daily newspaper circulation, hyperlocal online news and weekly newspapers to provide a picture of where fresh news and information is lacking. A video describing the Media Desert Project can be found here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nK9OqINpyys

The Media Deserts Project provides an initial analysis of the journalism innovations that are developing across the country. This student work focuses on the hyperlocal online news innovations and how they are performing. Are these entrepreneurial ventures filling in the gaps in legacy media or providing news coverage to regions previously untapped by mainstream media? Do the sites serve their geographic and demographic audiences? These answers will help in creating a picture of the emerging new news ecology.

Dr. Michelle Ferrier

Principal Investigator, Media Deserts Project
Associate Dean for Innovation, Research, and Creative Activity
Scripps College of Communication
Ohio University

Associate Professor/Principal Investigator
School of Communications
Elon University


Last updated: May 23, 2013