Does hyper-local make sense online?

by Mathew on July 30, 2007 · 4 comments

I wanted to take a more in-depth look at some of the things that NowPublic.com CEO Leonard Brody said about the local “citizen journalism” model during our interview about NowPublic’s financing and the failure of Backfence, which I posted about here. He said some similar things to Liz Gannes, who also spoke to him about the NowPublic deal for GigaOm.

In talking about Backfence and its “hyper-local” model, Brody said that as far as he is concerned hyper-local doesn’t work as an online model for younger readers:

“For people 35 and under, hyper-local doesn’t mean anything any more,” he said. “Local weather, news and that kind of thing is a commodity, and there’s lots of places you can get it.

We’ve moved from that to hyper-personal news… younger users check their Facebook feed way more times a day than they check CNN.”

Is that why Backfence didn’t work? And why do sites like Baristanet.com continue to prosper? Co-founder Mark Potts takes a look at the failure of Backfence and the lessons that can be learned here. And check the comments at PaidContent for some other thoughts, from Joe Duck and K. Paul Mallasch among others (K. Paul has his own local site, MuncieFreePress.com)

Brody did say during our interview, however, that hyper-local might make sense for print publications as a business model. And Howard Owens looks more at that side of the equation, and says that hyper-local isn’t really about weather or politics — it’s about people. Whether local newspapers can execute a strategy based on that remains to be seen.

One way to do that is to buy hyper-local citizen journalism efforts, which is what McClatchy did when it bought FresnoFamous, and what Fisher Communications recently did with Pegasus News. And for a great in-depth look at Gannett Newspapers’ makeover and its experiments with hyper-local and citizen journalism, check out Jeff “Crowdsourcing” Howe’s recent piece in Wired.

Update:

When it comes to local journalism, Jeff Jarvis says that he agrees with Rafat Ali of PaidContent, who argues that what Brody really means by “local doesn’t matter” is that “local is hard as hell.”

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