The Challenge of Hyperlocal News Online
A recent New York Times article reports on a number of start ups that are geotagging news stories in communities normally underrepresented in major papers. EveryBlock, Outside.in (co-founded by PSFK Conference speaker John Geraci), PlaceBlogger and Patch are each bringing together various news sources to compile a site dedicated to your community or even specific city block. Many of the sites draw on publicly available information like crime reports or restraurant health code violations and brings you the most up-to-date information in one place.
Chicago-based EveryBlock has quickly expanded to 11 major cities around the US and brings together blog posts and local news from across the web. Patch, a site currently operating in only a few communities, has taken a different approach and hires a dedicated reporter for the region to update the site after attending local events. With either approach, these sites face hurdles as they only provide services and/or usefulness to a limited group of users, however dedicated they may be. The New York Times reports on other problems facing the development of hyperlocal news sites:
Of course, like traditional media, the hyperlocal sites have to find a way to bring in sufficient revenue to support their business. And so far, they have had only limited success selling ads. Some have shouldered the cost of fielding a sales force to reach mom-and-pop businesses that may know nothing about online advertising.
One problem is that the number of readers for each neighborhood-focused news page is inherently small. “When you slice further and further down, you get smaller and smaller audiences,” said Greg Sterling, an analyst who has followed the hyperlocal market for a decade. “Advertisers want that kind of targeting, but they also want to reach more people, so there’s a paradox.”
Hopefully these sites will continue to expand their offering and find a steady stream of revenue to keep them going. An informed community is a healthy community.