Hyper-local neighborhood search site StreetAdvisor launched a series of features today that aim to make it more social. The Australian start-up launched in March as a place to share and comment on all things to do with your neighborhood.
Today’s new features offer insider views and a “local experts” program that lets locals comment on everything from the service at the coffee shop on the corner to the loud music played by the college grads across the street.
Among other things, this could give new home owners or renters the “real story” on a particular neighborhood. Other uses for the site, such as travel tools, real estate, business search, directional advertising and monetization could develop over time.
Wired or Tired?
The site’s features also include reviews that are delineated by street and mashed into overall scores and star-based ratings in five categories: “vibe” (restaurants, bars, etc.); “wired” (connectivity); “health” (safety, air quality, etc.); “value” (property); and “essentials” (water quality, sanitation, utilities, etc.)
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There are also more specific drill downs into 22 qualitative measures, based on structured reviews that are searchable and also include a slider bar that let you choose which factors are most important in neighborhood searches.
For more free-form comments on streets and neighborhoods, there are community guidebooks and “streetboards” where any comments can be posted on a given street or neighborhood and that also launch topic threads. These are similar to the community discussion tools in many hyper-local sites, such as Outside.in, and have been enhanced to include four broad categories and the ability to launch other topics, Wiki-style.
The site has also expanded its scope to apply all these social features and search tools to not only the street level but also town and state and country; and it is currently available in the U.S., U.K., Canada and Australia. The expansion of its data structure could be valuable, given the different lengths and densities of certain streets that may cross through different neighborhoods and confuse the hyper-local relevance the site is trying to achieve.
Overall, these are attractive tools, but this site, like the many others in the hyper-local space, faces a few important challenges:
1. The fragmentation of media – specifically online media, and more specifically, local online media – make it extremely difficult for start-up destination sites to stand out and attract critical masses of traffic and advertisers.
2. Also related to scalability – it has proved very difficult for hyper-local sites to provide the neighborhood level appeal, personalization and local flavor, yet replicate this many times in many disparate communities of varying sizes, demographics and online affinities. Add in the need to rely on users for reviews or other content and it gets even harder. Yelp has mostly done the best job at this.
Like many other online models, the network effect applies here and the more users that participate, the more appealing and valuable the experience will be. Getting the ball rolling is no easy feat, as shown by the many hyper-local destinations trying to make it happen.