I think the hyperlocal publishing industry is set for hyper-speed change in the coming months and years — a compressed version of 200+ years of journalism. Taking on this opportunity are all varieties of entrepreneurs: from small one-person operations to large, publicly traded mega-media companies, and everything in between.
With small lean startups, smart journalists, new business models and larger platform systems, the future of hyperlocal may be the place where the future of journalism is crafted.
Some of the issues these ventures face are the same as the history of journalism:
- People don’t want to pay for news;
- Success gains political influence;
- Maintaining journalistic standards in response to technological change; and
- Balancing high journalism with mass appeal…
- Plus, the modern issue of advertisers not wanting to pay traditional media rates for digital media advertising!
Some of the locally-based owners of community news and information sites are like modern-day versions of the traditional newspaper publisher or owner of the local television or radio stations. Some are more journalistic; some are more community promoters or politically motivated; some are combinations. Another variety these community site owners are trying to be scalable business plays, where they are developing a repeatable business model for local news and information delivery – creating new value propositions, efficiencies and audiences, then looking to expand to other communities.
Both these types of community sites are a market for another type of player in the hyperlocal industry: service providers!
These smaller hyperlocal media publishers are competing – either head-to-head, or in preparation for head-to-head – with some the big media players in the hyperlocal space (such as AOL’s Patch, MSNBC’s EveryBlock, Topix, etc.) Although they are smaller operations, they need the same efficiencies, advantages and services as the large media players. This spells opportunity for several startups who can provide back-office and value-added services to these smaller community sites.
All of these (and more) are high-tech scalable businesses with platforms for efficiency, new services, new sources of revenue (some advertising, some not), as well as shared resources …much like the Associated Press did for its member newspapers a hundred years ago.
Here’s a few new companies and services to watch:
Broadcastr is a social media location-based service (LBS) platform that enables the recording, organizing, listening, and sharing of audio content via a map-based interface.
CityPockets is a digital wallet for daily deals that helps users import and keep track of all their pre-paid vouchers from multiple sites with a single login.
Goby is a new search engine that’s all about finding fun ways to spend your free time, from a weekend to a week off.
Google Currents is a new publishing platform for mobile devices from Google, launched this week with more than 150 publishing partners. “Content is optimized for smartphones and tablets, allowing you to intuitively navigate between words, pictures and video on large and small screens alike, even if you’re offline,” the announcement stated. But it also pointed out:
Alongside Google Currents, we’re also launching a self-service platform … For example, if you’re a small regional news outlet … you can effortlessly create hands-on digital publications for Google Currents.
Group Commerce builds turnkey, white label group buying solutions that includes an extensive set of publisher administration tool and ecommerce design/marketing consultation.
LocalVox Media is a digital content hub for social media and search marketing of local neighborhood lifestyle news and editorial content.
Place IQ is a pre launch startup working on next generation location intelligence. PlaceIQ sifts through tons of data about locations to give marketers a mini-zipcode-like profile of each block.
POPVOX is a transparent, nonpartisan, neutral platform for advocacy and legislative data. It is a disruptive advocacy platform that delivers public input to Congress in a format tailored to actionable policy decisions and empowers users to leverage their expertise and numbers
SeeClickFix is a free mobile phone and web tool that allows citizens to report non-emergency issues, to communicate with public officials, and to engage with fellow citizens to help find solutions to problems in their neighborhood or town.
Tackable is a social journalism platform designed for news organizations, with a live media map of the world where you can create assignments and submit live photos and videos of things happening right in front of you.
Plus, there are a TON of Content Management Systems (CMS) providers who are playing to the hyperlocal news sites, providing search-friendly capabilities, user-generated content management, archiving and more.
The hyperlocal industry is an active marketplace with a lot of innovations, players, opportunities and experimentation to come.