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Monday, April 13, 2009 & Hyperlocal News Sites Encounter Ad & Content Challenges

everyblock logo

How do you attract a massive following when your target is within a small geographic area? That's the question potential advertisers are asking Everyblock, where all news is local.

Everyblock and other local news aggregate sites such as Patch and Placeblogger are sprouting-up to supplant metro sections at major daily newspapers. Their model structure is straightfoward but the execution isn't so simple:

Provide links to news articles and posts from freelancing local bloggers, along with data feeds from city governments, with crime reports, restaurant inspections.

Sounds like a fail-proof plan, until you try to lure advertisers other than the businesses within your coverage area. Even major daily papers struggle to find a steady balance of local and national advertisers, despite their major online presence. (Just ask the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.)

Everyblock was founded two years ago by 28-year old developer and journalist Adrian Holovaty. His background in journalism includes a stint at the Washington Post, where he edited a section titled "Editorial Innovation." Holovaty also developed one of the original Google Maps mashups, and an open-source framework called Django, which helps programmers build sites.

An excerpt from today's New York Times article: Hyperlocal Websites Deliver News Without Newspapers, explains the premise of Everyblock.

Holovaty, the company’s founder, showed that the police had answered a domestic battery call two blocks from his home and that a gourmet sandwich shop four blocks away had failed a city health inspection.'We have a very liberal definition of what is news. We think it’s something that happens in your neighborhood.'

In addition to the revenue and profitability hurdles, local news aggregate sites have plenty of other kinks to work out, such as incomplete and irrelevant blog posts. Everyblock recently tweaked its Geocoding for accurate mapping.
One area where I see the potential for more problems is in crime reports. If inaccurate or hacked reports were published.

I worked at a community paper for several years. Our editors and reporters a had a close bond with the county sheriff's office and followed strict guidelines and standards for the crime section. If there's one advantage local newspapers have over these blogs, it's face-to-face  accountability with the local government officials. If and when a few reputations are damaged due to a hacked or inaccurate blog post in the crime section, the potential for serious legal problems could arise.

Having said that, these hyperlocal news sites may find an effective hook to lure readers and a better revenue model than their paper predecessors. Finding the right path won't be easy, but intelligent innovators such as Holovaty can blaze new trails. (After all, the guy can play an acoustic guitar version of the Macgyver theme song.)

By Matt O'Hern at 11:35 AM | Comments (0)

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