Saturday, July 07, 2007

Hyperlocal hype?

It would be easy to read too much into the failure of the smart, well-funded hyperlocal web play – but it would be silly not to pay attention. The fact is, there's been far more hype than payoff in the hyperlocal world so far.

There's an overview article that looks at backfence in AJR, available here. Perry Evans collects a number of perspectives at his blog, evans ink. Ryan Sholin still believes that newspapers should embrace hyperlocal, and adds to the debate here.

UPDATE: Scott Karp at Publishing 20.0 has a different (and, to me, persuasive) perspective today; have a look here.

From Sholin:

Gather more and produce less ... It’s hard for lifelong newsroom types to see layoffs one day and reader participation initiatives the next and not feel a bit slighted. But we’re not just talking about event calendars and little league reports here, although I love ‘em, we’re talking about your newspaper as the platform for local information and interaction.

So it’s not just “send us your events and we’ll shovel them where they belong,” it’s “post your own events on your calendar which other users can add to their calendar, and tag your event with a number of useful categories that will help others find it.” Then let readers add their write-up of the event, and photos, and video.

From Karp:

The problem with all the thinking on hyperlocal is that it’s focused on what we think people need, i.e. more local news reporting, not what they want, i.e. help getting things done — web publishers figured out 10 years ago how to give people what they want, and then Google stepped in and took care of the rest.

From AJR:

The failure of Backfence may offer no greater lesson than the old one about pioneers being the ones with arrows in their backs. New ventures fail all the time. But it could also sound a cautionary note about the present--and immediate future--of hyperlocal news sites. As big-media companies and entrepreneurs alike rush into the hyperlocal arena (see "Really Local," April/May), it's worth pausing and asking: Is there a real business in this kind of business?


  1. Here's what I wrote almost six months ago about Why Citizen Shovelware Doesn't Work.

    The problem with Backfence isn't one of concept, it's a problem of an out-of-town company trying to execute on a "hyperlocal" level.

    It can't be done, unless you're providing tools for local journalists - pros or amateurs - to use on their own terms, their own site, their own brand.

    What can be done? Local news sites can create communities around their content; local news sites can give their communities a canvas for their own content.

  2. Anonymous6:54 PM

    Here's the Pub 2.0 guy (Karp) and the WSJ...