Social Streets’ flagship title Roman Road LDN has been selected to be part of the Google News Showcase initiative launched today to support independent community journalism.
Roman Road LDN, the news and culture magazine in Tower Hamlets, is one of only 45 independent news titles in the UK to be chosen to appear in the Google News Showcase.
Google News Showcase, which is accessible from the Google Search page alongside Images, Videos and Books, helps readers connect more easily with their favourite news publishers. Until now only larger national media companies have benefitted from this scheme.
The one-of-a-kind deal is part of a partnership between Google and Independent Community News Network (ICNN), a community news initiative led by Cardiff University to support small independent publishers in the UK.
According to the news industry magazine Press Gazette, there are over 400 local and hyperlocal news providers not owned by any of the major regional publishers (such as Reach, Archant, Newsquest, JPI Media, Iliffe Media, MNA, Tindle Newspapers) that are reporting on their local communities.
“This is a watershed moment for independent journalism in the U.K. and we are delighted to expand our relationship with Google to bring this partnership together. Google News Showcase is an extremely important initiative that highlights the value of local news,” said Matt Abbott, ICNN’s deputy director.
Social Streets C.I.C is a member of ICNN and has been part of their efforts over recent years to lobby the government for better policies to support small independent publishers.
In July 2022 Tabitha Stapely, founder of Social Streets C.I.C, provided evidence to the government’s DCMS’s inquiry committee that was looking into the sustainability of local journalism.
“In the past, small independent publishers like Social Streets that provide news coverage in underserved areas have been ignored by the major journalism initiatives as we are deemed ‘too small’” says Stapely “Thanks to the efforts of ICNN we now have a seat at the table with the larger media and big tech companies and can be part of the conversation about how best to support local news, something that is vital in underserved, disadvantaged areas such as Tower Hamlets.”
The Google News Showcase will help small publishers with limited resources reach larger audiences in their area. Social Streets C.I.C, which was set up in 2016 as a social enterprise with the charitable objective of increasing participation in the local community, is not funded by investors or shareholders and employs only three people.
Social Streets’ member-led model where local readers and organisations pay small monthly donations ensures that the publication is accountable to the local community and not to outside stakeholders. Members can publish directly to the Local Hub section of the magazine’s website meaning they benefit directly from the audiences that Social Streets has grown in the local area.
“It’s vital to our charitable mission that the community benefits directly from the digital infrastructure we are building in the neighbourhood,” says Stapely. “Being able to reach bigger audiences means member content in the online Local Hub will also be more discoverable too, which means the grassroots are benefiting from this initiative too.”
“This is a particularly proud moment for Roman Road LDN” continues Stapely. “We are tiny but have big plans. We are developing a model of member-led community journalism that is trusted and sustainable even in disadvantaged areas such as Tower Hamlets, one of the most deprived districts in the country” says Stapely. “This kind of recognition will not only help us reach more people who want to take part in our area and learn about our unique heritage, but it will also show the outside world that small communities such as ours can produce high-quality journalism.”