As “the media capital of the world,” New York is rife with daily newspapers, high-culture magazines and lifestyle publications, yet Trevor Sumner says he had “no idea what was going on in my neighborhood. I couldn’t even keep up with restaurants in the East Village.” That lack of district-level information inspired NearSay, a start-up site whose stated goal is to create a “custom neighborhood paper” for readers.
NearSay, cofounded by Sumner and David Pachter eight months ago, is both local and vertical, an important first step in addressing the definitional concerns that bug many hyperlocals. Geographical lines are drawn by district (Downtown Manhattan, Chelsea), with tabbed content categories for each of the coverage areas (local news, restaurants, nightlife, family and more). Readers can opt in to specific content interests for their neighborhood.
The lean, seven-person staff includes no full-time writers. Instead, NearSay relies on an extensive network of bloggers and community activists (city council and community board members, for example) to do its heavy lifting. Bloggers are rewarded with promotion from the anchor site that not only points to their originating work, but also posts full writer profiles and incorporates a “most influential” ranking model to further incentivize. It’s part of NearSay’s mission to build a site “where you find people and content,” Sumner told BIA/Kelsey.
He stressed that a blogger advertising network, in the image of the TBD’s model in Washington, D.C., will eventually sprout, though it has yet to take shape. First business priorities are to build out premium listings through a self-service business directory and to capitalize on the booming online coupons trend through targeted neighborhood offers. This encourages greater personalization of deals and discounts (Tribeca families, for instance) and opens up additional inventory. Sponsorship of particular content and section features is another monetizable opportunity to be considered.
Then there is the challenge of a start-up site being discovered in New York. Just this month, The New York Times launched The Local East Village in conjunction with NYU, and as BIA/Kelsey’s Peter Krasilovsky detailed, Capital New York (currently online in beta) wants to make its mark with a hyperlocal site devoted to highbrow New York culture. Factor in the dailies, tabloids, NY Observer, New York Magazine, Time Out New York and others, and it’s a cluttered marketplace to be noticed in.
Sumner thinks that could actually play to NearSay’s advantage. “The issues is that it’s too cluttered. There is so much noise in New York. It’s a fundamentally different problem that we’re solving.” He hopes that a high recommendation score from early adopters, coupled with the reach of the blogger network, can spread the word about the site, which will expand to all of Manhattan later this fall and into surrounding burrows early next year.