Sean Woolley
5/10/13
Hyperlocal News Paper

Arlington

Site name: Arlington Mercury
Site URL: http://arlingtonmercury.org/
Dates of Analysis:
Home page images: April 2
April 3
April 4
April 5
April 6
April 7
April 8
April 9
April 11
April 12
April 14
April 15
April 16
April 17

Alexa.com Collection & Census Data: April 2

Geographic Reach: Arlington, Virginia (22201,22202,22203,22204,22205,22206,22207,22209)

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external image placeholder?w=596&h=128Demographic Information




Representation:

Arlington Mercury is a hyperlocal news source that is based in the town of Arlington, Virginia just outside of the nations capital. The website is clearly aimed towards just the town of Arlington, rather than a more national focus. The name of the website is the first giveaway to the information it pertains.
Once connected to Arlington Mercury you are met by a large cover photo of part of the Arlington skyline. The news is displayed in different sections, starting with a rotating slideshow of the top stories. Directly under the headline slideshow is a section containing all of the blogs put out by the website. Titled “Our Blogs”, there are 4 different sub sections you can click on. These sections include “About Arlington” which gives information on the town of Arlington, Virginia. “Wonk Arlington” which leads to a list of articles put out by the website on budget related issues. There is also a book review blog called “Crusty Comments with Steve Cordle”. This section really caught my attention because I think that it represents what a hyperlocal is all about in terms that it is written in a really personal manner. This is something that large, nationally aimed news sources wouldn’t put out, yet hyperlocals have the freedom to do so because of their smaller audience. The final blog is titled “Merc Notes” and is all about email lists and website updates, which is also something you only see in hyperlocal websites because they don’t put out multiple stories a day. Under the “Our Blogs” section is a stream of all the latest uploads written into the blogs.
Directly down the center of the page you find the stories put out by the Arlington Mercury in chronological order. Each story is shown with a headline, the opening paragraph of the article, as well as a picture to accompany it. The picture is really important because of the audience this hyperlocal is aimed towards. It allows the audience to connect with the story because it’s a picture of where there from, a feeling that most nationally published stories cant reproduce. An example of one of the stories put out during my data collection was about a superintendent at the local school trying to change the boundaries of Arlington’s elementary schools. This is something that wouldn’t get press nationally because, to be honest, it doesn’t matter very much to people outside of Arlington. However, to people inside of Arlington it is of great importance because it pertains to their children. I felt that this was a great representation of what a hyperlocal is all about because it really showed the community aspect of the stories produced.
Down the right hand side of the website is a link to donate to the Arlington Mercury, which represents how hyperlocals are run and how they rely on the community to keep them running. Arlington Independent Media has an advertisement below that, showing that they have support of the local media industry and also make small revenue off of advertising for them. There is a message below that stating that the website got its software from a company called Podio. There is a twitter feed displaying the tweets put out by Arlington Mercury which I felt was one of the most important parts of the website. During my research I noticed that stories aren’t update very often on the site, yet the twitter is usually active on a daily basis. It includes information like minor traffic problems as well as community events and upcoming stories. I feel like this is the best representation of what a hyperlocal is all about because it is so focused.

Sample Size: 14 homepage screen grabs



Content Analysis


Male
Female
Don’t Know
TOTALS
White
12
10
15
37
Black
0
0
6
6
Hispanic/ Latino
13
4
0
17
Asian
0
0
0
0
Native American
0
0
0
0
Totals
25
14
21
60








Percentages

Percentages
Male
Female
Don’t know
TOTALS
White
32%
27%
40%
62%
Black
0%
0%
100%
10%
Hispanic
76%
24%
0%
28%











Production

The production of Arlington Mercury is impressive for such a small organization. The website is appealing and easy to navigate, which will attract readers. The content is defiantly focused around the city of Arlington, Virginia and all of the activities of its residents. Full stories aren’t published on a very regular basis, during my data collection there was only 1 new full story published over the two-week period. This is the only downside I can see about how the stories are produced. They have attractive, informative headlines in addition to relevant pictures that draw the reader’s eye.

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A sample of how the articles are laid out is given above. It shows how all of the information needed to get the readers attention is produced in a tight, attractive format.
The overall layout of the website is also important to note in the production aspect because it flows in a way that allows readers to easily access information. The donations link is strategically placed so its one of the first things visitors see; yet it isn’t overwhelmingly large. The rotating presentation of new stories is dead center at the top of the page, which directs readers towards reading the new content. If the readers are looking for an older article, they are easy to access from the chronological list of previous articles right under the rotating new stories. The twitter and blog feeds allow visitors who don’t have time to read a full article to get quick information. All of these features are used on purpose to attract the audience’s attention and then keep them coming back for more.

Sample homepage:


external image placeholder?w=533&h=281Identity:

It is clear the Arlington Mercury is aimed solely towards the town of Arlington, Virginia and that its creates love the town they come from and are proud of their community. The cover photo is a beautiful shot of downtown Arlington and the pictures that accompany the stories are all taken around the community. They also include all walks of life, be it male or female, Black, White or Hispanic in the pictures. The “About Arlington” blog is all need to know information for only Arlington residents. The advertisement for the Arlington Independent Media shows that they are not only proud of their identity as a hyperlocal news source, but that they also support other forms of independent media in their area. The Twitter feed really shows that Arlington Mercury strives to be an everyday part of the community. The content of the articles on the site are so varied that it displays the websites goal of covering all realms of activity going on in the city.

Consumption

The goal of Arlington Mercury is to give unbiased, hyperlocal news to the Arlington community. Readers will be interested in the site because of how the majority of the news is in regards to things that directly affect their lives. Arlington is a pretty big city, and it has all sorts of people living in it. This makes it difficult for this hyperlocal website in comparison to others in a smaller demographic area because its harder to report on things that everyone will want to read. I think they do this well, however, because of the topics chosen. School issues, town politics, and budget news are the prominent articles and I feel that this is because those are the stories that people across the demographic board will read. The Twitter feed allows readers who don’t have time to read a whole article to get their news anyway, which only adds to the audience base.

Regulation

The hyperlocal nature of Arlington Mercury causes the content to be somewhat regulated. The lack of funds causes the website to place a donation link in a prime position on the homepage. This area could be used for useful displays of news but because of their size the site needs supporters and thus loses that valuable space. The diversity of Arlington also causes some regulation of the content produced because finding community related stories that over a hundred thousand different people want to read about is difficult. This is why we see more politics on the site because it’s relatable to everyone who lives in the target area.

Evaluation

The demographics of Arlington, Virginia are what you would expect from any major metropolitan are in the United States; Diverse. This puts Arlington Mercury in a strange position because as a hyperlocal it is expected to produce community related stories that stand apart from the national ones that flood our airways. The site, however, is restricted in the diversity of its content because of how large the population of the area is. I feel that this is why we see more of the area’s political and educational related stories on their site over anything else. The Twitter and blog feeds make up for this somewhat by giving small information on community issues that don’t have to do with the areas politics.
The pictures that accompany the stories on the website are plentiful and just as diverse as the city of Arlington itself. The demographics state that a majority of the people who live there are white and this is reflected through the people in the pictures. However, Hispanics are a not-so-far second and they are well represented as well. African American’s aren’t as prevalent as Whites and Hispanics but they do make up a decent percentage of the population, and are represented accordingly.
Bibliography

"Arlington Mercury - News Reports, Breaking News, News Features." Arlington Mercury. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 May 2013: http://arlingtonmercury.org/

City-Data.com. (n.d). Retrieved from City-Data Web site: http://www.city-data.com/

"Http:arlingtonmercury.org - Information from Alexa Internet."Http:arlingtonmercury.org - Information from Alexa Internet. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 May 2013.