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Two pioneers in the local social space discussed their leading-edge approaches in a panel at ILM:07 today.

First up was Mike Orren, president of Pegasus News. Like so many companies in the local online space, Pegasus has not followed a textbook model.

Pegasus was started in Dallas (symbolized by the mythological horse Pegasus), with little initial funding. Its purpose is to “run” niche content — like local music, high school sports, etc., to its user base in the Dallas/Fort Worth market. This could also be called “hyper-local” content.

However, Pegasus doesn’t use customer profiles to drive content delivery. Rather, its content distribution system is designed to infer customer interests (along the lines of Amazon or Netflix).

Pegasus obtains its content from four sources:

  • A little generated by staff
  • A little aggregated from other sources
  • Some from content partners (like community newspapers), including bloggers, local TV stations
  • Some from “citizen journalists” (of which they say they have more than 10,000)

With all these content sources, there are no revenue sharing arrangements. Both parties are satisfied just to be getting the additional eyeballs.

Pegasus was recently purchased by Fisher Communications (a Seattle-based, publicly traded communications and media company). From Fisher’s standpoint, it was either buy or build a new Web site, and it wanted to do something more dramatic than just redoing the Pegasus site.

With the Pegasus acquisition, Fisher can totally recreate the Web sites associated with its media properties. By Pegasus-izing its Web sites, it will create a deeper, more social and more engaged relationship with its audiences.

In 2008, the priorities for Pegasus will be working on the build-out of the Pegasus platform in additional Fisher markets, mobile applications and Facebook-based applications.

Next, Josh Walker, CEO of CityVoter, presented its unique vision. CityVoter taps popular opinion to identify “the best” in specific categories in their markets (e.g., “the best doughnuts in Seattle”). It has launched in 14 cities so far. The very specific categories it seeks to cover create a very “long tail.”.(One can only imagine the consequences of knowing the best doughnut shops in all the cities one visits … long tail, indeed.)

CityVoter works with various media properties, including local TV stations. Users can create their own profiles, invite friends, schedule events, etc. Thus, Walker describes CityVoter as “Yahoo! Answers meets Facebook.”

Having worked with large media companies (in more than one life), Walker has some sobering comments on them, including:

  • At local TV stations, there is a lot of internal conflict between news, entertainment and advertising. Unless stations pull together and respond effectively to the demand for small-scale video advertising by SMBs, players like TurnHere are going to “eat their lunch.”
  • The stunning success of YouTube is causing some TV stations to “get religion.” As a result, the advertising sales groups at many TV stations have been reenergized.
  • Part of the reason corporate-owned media properties are slow to respond is that their corporate parents are primarily interested in cutting costs; it’s a cultural thing. There is a new class of “journalist developers” in media. But they’re small so far. Almost all changes still have to go through corporate; that strangles local initiative.

Walker’s advice to local TV stations: “Build your own street team and OWN this [hyper-local] content. There is just as much interest [in local reviews and information] in markets like Albany as markets like L.A.”

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