Thursday, January 17, 2008

Going Hyperlocal



I have always thought that newspapers, with their relationships already extending out into the community with a large and eclectic mix of local organizations, advertisers, subscribers and sources would become the hub of community information over the web. Television stations have greater coverage and face time, but not the infrastructure. Radio has coverage but is limited by it's medium.

That's not to say that radio hasn't started posted video on their web sites and that television hasn't leveraged it's appeal to bring in a community of users to their site. It is that the newspapers have always had the mix of business model: news and information source (reporters), community platform (letters and editorial), marketplace (classifieds), sales (advertisements) and a breadth of topics that gave them an advantage.

But it is the depth of information that was to me, a critical piece. TV and radio just can't cover the High School, Little League, Rotary Club, Announcement territory that newspapers can at the local level.

Not to say that newspapers aren't struggling in the brave new world of the web. But some at starting to tap into their potential.

The Chicago Tribune Web service yesterday announced it was expanding community content online to 13 more suburbs bringing to a total 21 suburbs that would be covered by Triblocal. They continue to say they expect "to have 35 "hyper-local" sites by the end of the year as well as eight localized print supplements that will be periodically packaged with the newspaper."

Triblocal intends to drive the content of the website by engaging community contributors


Welcome to Triblocal.com, the place for you to connect with your neighbors, friends and community.

At Triblocal.com, you'll work side-by-side with Triblocal.com's editorial staff to produce coverage of your community with your news items and your photos.


A great example of a hyper-local blog that draws from the community is the West Seattle Blog. Along with co-publishers Tracy Record and Patrick Sand they have contributing photographers Christopher Boffoli and Matt Durham they have
"EVERYONE in West Seattle who collaborates to make WSB the place to come to find out what’s going on in West Seattle right now - with e-mail tips, photos, comments, more. THANK YOU!"


Here in the South Sound, the Tacoma News Tribune made a call out last year in January for local bloggers. Since then they have built an impressive display of blogs from their staff, the community and a rather long blogroll. However this would be more of an example of being Hyper-topical in organization rather than hyper-local. Their coverage is still based on a regional umbrella with some drilling down.

FeedTacoma, with their expanding number of blogs, and Exit133 with the addition of new voices on their B-side are actually appearing to converge toward that same community model and infrastructure that newspapers have had to their advantage. When you look at the activity within the forums and the volume of comments on those two sites, they are more compelling than what is happening on the Tribs site.

As an aside to those who may find my convergence comment to far reaching... A car coming from New York and one coming from Los Angeles are converging if they are both heading to Texas. They just both have a long way to get there.

The one web site that has stated it's intent to drill down to the neighborhood is www.myzip.net. They are building out their beta with bloggers, who if they qualify will be compensated, they are willing to focus no activities directly related to their zip code. As My Zip states...

"We are building the first and best national network of place blogs written by real people about their neighborhoods, streets and local issues. Our goal is to help people connect with the world right outside their front door and help and reward neighborhood bloggers for their effort."

They will have their work cut out for them though. Not because of zip codes being the sorter of information, an idea which is intriguing. But because www.myzipcode.com and www.myzip.com are already taken as domain names, and finding them, even though I was familiar with the idea of the company, was difficult.

Well, on a hyper-hyper-local basis, I need to go get lunch.

5 comments:

j said...

Thanks for the MyZip.net mention, Andrew. Actually, we own myzip.com and are in the process of pointing it to the MyZip service. But you're right that we face challenges in our goal to build a national network of neighborhood blogs. how do you keep good writers interested and dedicated to their neighborhood? how do you help "regular folk" become good writers? what is the best way to keep content quality on the network high? Lots of questions that we're starting to find answers for.

We're hoping to be part of the conversation with great indie blogs like WSB. Will we earn it? We're trying.

Thanks
Justin Carder, MyZip
(a.k.a j from http://www.capitolhillseattle.com )

Anonymous said...

In response to Justin, YOU don't keep the writers interested; initially they are self-motivated to participate in the process and subsequently they are community-supported. The community will support the content providers who best express what the community wants to know. What is going on in our local schools, what public events are available, what local programs are scheduled, what can we do on Saturday night and where should we eat dinner before, and what is the community concerned about?

Andrew Fry said...

Justin, I am glad to hear that you have the myzip.com domain name sewn up. I tried locating the company with that address because, after a Google search based on the premise, I was presented with the .com address as one of the first choices. When the link brought me to a indexing site built specifically for redirecting, I was confused. Good luck on your venture.

Jen said...

Andrew:

They're easier to find if you search for individual zipcodes. Try that, and you'll see they're all over the place :)

I've been pretty happy with myzip, thus far. For now, I don't know how much of an issue it is of the community supporting the writers, since it's still at such an early stage. The blogs are being built up, the community is just beginning to find them, so feedback is still a little limited. At some point I suppose it will work that way.

These are very focused blogs, more focused than my other blog which I thought was about as local as you could get.

So, I don't really know if it's an issue of the better writers rising to the top as it might be with more general interest blogs, or city-wide blogs. I'm not sure there is another blogger that focuses specifically on 98406.net, so it's hard to really draw comparisons.

Matt Durham said...

From Photojournalist Matt Durham (WestSeattleBlog.com)
Thank you for the coverage. I'm having fun covering my community, unfortunately this a difficult way to support the use of the required gear and education.
I attempted my own online publication a year ago and found the profit margin to be slim to none.
If you want to keep the spirit up of those blogging, participate in the process with comments and contributions.
Sincerely,
Matt Durham
www.MattDurhamPhotography.com