Friday, June 6, 2008

Hyperlocal: How can it work?

The recent news of the Washington Post's struggles to establish their local property has sparked some conversation around hyperlocal and how to make it work?

Fred Wilson, a NYC venture capitalist, has written many times on hyperlocal and has made an investment in which focuses on created newspapers for every zip code. He recently wrote a post entitled, "Hyperlocal Has To Be Peer Produced".

I have been interested in "hyperlocal" for years and have blogged about this topic quite a bit. From day one, I've been convinced that hyperlocal must be "peer produced". That means we together will document what is going on in our streets, our schools, our churches, our parks, and our communities. No "newsroom centric" model is going to work. That's how I see it.

I completely agree that peer produced content is the way to go for hyperlocal sites. Yet, there must still be an editorial voice or curator in the background to help filter and frame the stories that emerge from a neighborhood. The noise to signal ratio on peer produced content can become overwhelming without some filters. Individuals can produce great peer produced content but once aggregated that great content can become noise.

Local aggregators are becoming more and more popular. Local news, local events, local promotions, local anything. You crawl the web for it, you aggregate it, and you plot it on a map and there is your new hyperlocal site. But the reality is that the majority of users are not looking for all the deals in their area or all the events in their area. They want a direction or voice behind the information.

This is why email newsletters are successful. The Daily Candy's and Urban Daddy's of the world establish a voice and provide relevant local content that has been pruned and plucked for the user.

The Washington Post's struggles show why the peer produced content can not be ignored. But this peer produced content needs to be managed and filtered. In a sense, we are all reporters with an editorial staff behind us.

(Note: We did not touch upon scalability and monetization issues, two of the other pillars of hyperlocal. Perhaps in another post we will try to tackle those issues.)

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Andrew Badera said...

I was a webmaster with Gannett when the "hyperlocal" phrase hit the scene and had them shaking in their boots as they realized how far from modernized their newsrooms were. When I first tried to encourage community- and conversation- -driven facets for our site, management shot me down. Scroll forward two years to them seeing the kind of page views our neighboring markets were pulling in with semi-localized forum content and reporting, and suddenly "community" and "local" were the words of the day.

Hyperlocal can and will absolutely work, certainly in more urban markets, but even in rural, as broadband and wireless penetration inrease. But will it work in a revenue-generating fashion, or will it be a grassroots, pro-am effort and product?

Danny said...

Thanks for sharing some stories from the early days of hyperlocal. It is interested to see how attitudes have changes so quickly in a relatively short time.
My post perhaps should have been "Hyperlocal: How WILL it work?". I wonder the same thing about hyperlocal and revenue generation.