Archive for the ‘Hyperlocal News and Innovation’ Category

Hyperlocal industry set for hyper-speed changes and even more experiments

Monday, December 12th, 2011

Extra! Extra! Read all about it. Hyperlocal is the next big thing.

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.


Hyperlocal offers the full spectrum of entrepreneurial opportunity

Monday, October 31st, 2011

Today's hyperlocal entrepreneurs are similar to some of the early pioneers of American journalism... except it's not just a bunch of white guys this time.

This past week in New York City, I attended the inaugural Street Fight Summit (great name!), covering the business side of hyperlocal publishing. I’ve been following specific businesses and general developments in hyperlocal, but never got the kind of deeper look that only a focused trade conference or research report can provide. Street Fight delivered that last week, and I plan to follow this conference’s growth. (Good things ahead, I suspect.)

Highlights from the (#SFS11) conference can be found here, as well as good pieces on lessons learned and takeaways. I agree with much of what is said in these articles and in the coverage of the conference by PaidContent. My main takeaway from the conference is different – maybe because I’m new to the industry, maybe because I’m an outsider looking in, maybe because I’m inclined this way.

First off, a side note

At the conference, I was struck by the quiet. Clearly there was high interest and enthusiasm about the opportunities, strong opinions about striking a balance between journalistic and business objectives, great attention to new technology and developments, but the attendees were quiet and reserved. There wasn’t a lot of open deal-making and networking. Maybe they were just a serious crowd. Maybe it was the set-up of the venue. (Partly, I think.) Maybe people were struggling with the tradeoffs between journalism and business. Maybe folks were secretive about their next move. I’m not really sure, but the mood reminded me of a conference I attended in DC several years ago for the intelligence community, looking at open source. (Not the kind you think.) There was excitement about the opportunities and developments, but there was quiet angst in the room. (I’d expect that at a “spooks” conference, where people are known to have business cards without any email address or phone numbers on them. “We’ll be in touch,” they’d say.)

My main takeway

The Street Fight Summit attracted a wide spectrum of attendees and speakers – from small one-person operations to large, publicly-traded mega-media companies, and everything in between. Amazing for such a new and small-ish conference.

Some of the community site owners seemed to be modern-day versions of publisher/journalist/inventor Benjamin Franklin (and his lesser-known brother, James): creating new, local publications, while setting an editorial policy and style, adding features to attract readership, developing business models to make it pay, and even tinkering with the digital “printing press” to keep the operation rolling. These are the lifestyle business entrepreneurs.

Others were mid-sized businesses, looking for efficiencies and new sources of revenue, features to attract traffic (and readers), and funding. Some of these were looking toward expansion to other communities, others were focused on being self-sustaining and beating the traditional media competition down the street. Some were from larger communities (many from NYC), and some from smaller communities and suburbs. These are the small business entrepreneurs.

The big media companies were present with their approach to hyperlocal: shared assets and resources across many locations. They seemed to be looking for interesting ideas and ways to drive traffic, develop readership in new communities and control costs. (Maybe this is why the quiet. The small guys don’t want to give the big guys any ideas. Hmmm) These are the big business intrapreneurs.

Then there were are the social venture entrepreneurs: founders of mission-driven community sites that were non-profit by design. They were seeking new forms of funding and revenue, operational efficiencies and new ways to maintain their presence in the community.

Serving all these segments, were a handful of high-tech scalable business entrepreneurs with their platforms for efficiency, new services, shared resources (much like the Associated Press did for its member newspapers), new sources of revenue (some advertising, some not) and more.

In their own ways, ALL of these businesses are innovating, business modeling and grappling with the issues of the day and the industry. Some are journalism entrepreneurs, others are market-driven entrepreneurs and still others are tech entrepreneurs. The Street Fight Summit brought together all these types of entrepreneurs in the hyperlocal industry, all seeing opportunity.

Based on all I heard and saw, the hyperlocal publishing industry is set for hyper-speed change in the coming months and years — a compressed version of 200+ years of newspaper developments. Looking back at history, some of the issues are the same!

Here are some of the big issues from the early days of newspapering — repeating themselves in this hyperlocal space: (from the Wikipedia entry for The History of American Newspapers, based on The Cambridge History of English and American Literature).

People don’t want to pay for news:

“Newspapers became a form of public property after 1800. Americans believed that as republican citizens they had a right to the information contained in newspapers without paying anything.”

Sound familiar?

Success creates political influence:

“New England papers were generally Federalist; in Pennsylvania there was a balance; in the West and South the Republican press predominated.” And one early editor was called  “a deceitful newsmonger …  “a prostitute wretch”, “a great fool, and a barefaced liar.”

Wow! Makes great blog material!

Maintaining journalistic standards
in response to technological change:

“The men who wrote from the news centers of Europe were persons of wide political knowledge and experience, and social consequence. They had time and ability to do their work thoroughly, carefully, and intelligently, innocent of superficial effort toward sensation, of the practices of inaccurate brevity and irresponsible haste, which began with the laying of the Atlantic cable.”

Wanna talk about SEO, aggregation, algorithms or what?

Balancing high journalism with mass appeal:

“… the blatant methods by which the cheap papers were popularized aroused the antagonism of the older papers, but created a competition that could not be ignored… The gentler pejorative “infotainment” was coined more recently to refer to generally inoffensive news programming that shuns serious issues, but blends “soft” journalism and entertainment rather than emphasizing more important news values…”

Ah, the clash of the establishment versus the upstarts has a long history.

The Street Fight Summit brought together the hyperlocal publishing industry, and therefore brought together ALL these players, elements, issues and more. (Thanks to Laura and David and everyone at Street Fight Magazine.)

Hyper-speed change is ahead, and it’s a great time to be an entrepreneur in hyperlocal — no matter what type entrepreneur you are.