In Albania, mainstream media focuses on news coming out of the capital city Tirana The rest of the country only gets attention if there is a natural disaster or dramatic human-interest story. Even within Tirana, marginalized communities are rarely covered.
The internet has filled this gap. Printed mainstream media in Albania, like many other countries, prints general news stories that rarely give readers useful information. Hyperlocal sites, which provide specialized information for a small community of online readers, have sprung up around the world to address this issue.
In a small market like the Albanian one, where local newspapers are almost nonexistent, the hyperlocal platform becomes a real alternative to mainstream media, not least because it can be set up with relatively little capital and few staff.
Hyperlocal platforms have appeared in several Albanian cities, including Saranda, Vlora, Shkodra, but also in smaller towns. The Internet portal “Saranda Web” for example, defines its mission as, “a site for all people from the city of Saranda and its fans.” Saranda is a coastal city in South Albania and Saranda Web provides local news, but also civic information on sports, swimming and tourist information. Saranda’s readers contribute to the site, and also evaluate and review the information on it. The authors of the site are a small group of journalists, former local reporters in Saranda and surrounding areas, cultural managers, and former employees from local government and non-profit organizations in South Albania. They see their work as a mix of professional journalism, advertising and public relations , to bring together the interests of consumers and local businesses.
Other hyperlocal platforms in cities such as Shkodra, Elbasan, Korca, Durres, etc., are less developed. In many cases, these platforms are little more than a personal blog, and the readers are not as involved in the content.
Non profit organisations and other institutions in Albania are now using hyperlocal platforms too. The Children’s Human Rights Centre of Albania for example uses hyperlocal sites to publish lists of organized activities and ask the public and stakeholders about projects. This information is useful not only to the public but to journalists in the mainstream media .
Other hyperlocal platforms focus on specific topics. The website “Animal Rights in Albania, Now!” deals with animal rights in the country, but also with animal adoptions or reports of lost pets. Over 15,000 people currently follow this website. Animal-related news is rarely reported in the mainstream media, but support for this site shows that the public are deeply interested in the subject.
Traditional media in Albania is, like media elsewhere, going through financial crises. But it is also going through a crisis of confidence. Hyperlocal platforms, with their ability to reach directly to readers and report on subjects that interest them most, may provide a vision of the future.
Article translated by the author from the original Albanian Eshtë koha e lajmit hiperlokal