The Internet, and now mobile, has long been an excellent way to present the proverbial “hyperlocal” news content, those stories that are just too parochial to make the local news broadcast or the pages of the local metro daily. Finding a way to make hyperlocal truly hyperlocal and how to make it pay have been the big challenges.
This morning at ILM:10 we gathered some of the leading businesses in this category and drilled down on how their products work.
Patch stands out in the local news crown because it focuses on using professional journalists to provide coverage of a community, rather than relying on aggregating content or relying on user-submitted content.
Patch President Warren Webster defended this model. “You have to have that local journalist producing that original content, that is the No. 1 differentiator for Patch.” He said that in looking at other attempts at hyperlocal, the lack of community connection was a key element of those that failed.
Unlike Patch, Fwix is all about aggregating content, not creating it. “We index the Web by location,” said founder and CEO Darian Shirazi. Ultimately, the objective is not to be a news site, but a “local search company.”
Fwix has built pages for 50,000 neighborhoods across the country. Shirazi said the content (news, events, reviews, photos, and social content like tweets and check-ins) is aggregated down to the place level. He showed an example of a local coffeehouse he frequents in San Francisco with a place page that shows reviews as well as tweets and check-ins at that location.
Satbir Khanuja is president and CEO of DataSphere, a company that provides hyperlocal Web sites for local broadcasters. One of the challenge for local broadcasters has been that they gather a lot of hyperlocal content, but they do not have the inventory in their traditional media business to distribute it.
DataSphere builds hyperlocal sites that feed into the main station site. Khanuja cited one example of a local broadcaster partner (KOMO News in Seattle) that organized its content into 55 neighborhood sites that aggregate local news and deals.
The panelists differed a bit on business models.
Shirazi said the model of serving ads on local inventory and doing a revenue share is a modest at best opportunity, and more work is needed to find the right model.
Khanuja and Mark Josephson, CEO of Outside.in, disagreed.
Josephson said that if anything, there will not be enough local inventory in the near future to meet demand. He described Outside.in as a hybrid of what Fwix and DataSphere offer.