Vermont’s Front Porch Forum is a hyperlocal network that has thrived, usage-wise, without relying on much of anything other than its authentic community voice. As recounted in an article in this month’s Yankee magazine by enviro-writer Bill McKibben, the hyperlocal network has expanded to 100 neighborhood nets, reaching 15,000 households. Each neighborhood is limited to 400 homes, and pseudonyms are discouraged in comments.
Penetration of each community is high, with the “flagship five sisters” communities in the Burlington area getting 90 percent reach. There are 25 “issues” published per month, and 98 percent of reviewers read each issue.
Participation is also said to be good, with 50 percent having posted recently. The communities stand out for their activism as well. Active networks of neighbors are using Front Porch to loan or give away items when needed (i.e., canoes).
But revenues remain limited to sponsored e-mail ads and city government public notices. “With a few hundred thousand dollars of development money, we could put this software in a box and set it up anywhere,” says founder Michael Wood-Lewis.