Hey did you hear that newspapers are having a tough time these days? Of course you have unless you are living under a rock. You can’t turn around without hearing more doom followed a little more gloom when it comes to the newspaper industry. As discussed here on more than a few occasions, some of these troubles are deserved while others are just part of progress. What was once cool and hip most likely will be set aside for progress unless it decides to play along. Ask those folks who thought that word processing was a fad and that the typewriter would stick around (if you still use a type writer PLEASE comment here and tell your story!)
As a result of papers folding there is a content void that can be created. If there is not some kind of substitute for this void then the most likely victim will be the person looking for local news. Of course, you can always turn to TV but the ‘if it bleeds it leads’ mentality of local news broadcasts are quickly making these dinosaurs less and less attractive and less viable.
So what’s next? It looks like this void can be filled in part by hyperlocal bloggers. While this idea has been around forever it appears as if its time may have come. In a bit of irony, since the New York Times is reporting it then it means that this concept is more mainstream than ever which is what makes newspapers so undesirable. If the traditional media finds out about it then it’s too late, right? Not so in this case.
Hyperlocal is to blogging what local access cable is / was to TV. It’s the chance for the local people to cover the local issues without the in between of some medium like a local newspaper or TV station. What this could eventually mean to Internet marketing is open for debate but it may be more poised than ever to compete for ad dollars.
Startups like EveryBlock, Outside.in, Placeblogger and Patch are being backed by VC dollars to see this become a reality. The other reality is that despite the interest in this local focus for news and information it is not something that immediately translates to advertising success. The smaller the audience the more specific the target which marketers and advertisers alike say is a good thing but the numbers can be so small that it is also a bad thing. Another rock and a hard place scenario for online advertising but it is real and could hurt the growth of the segment.
One indication that this segment may have some legs is the fact that Tim Armstrong, newly minted CEO of AOL, has bankrolled the efforts of Patch.com. Their model differs in that they actually hire reporters. What makes this different than a local newspaper remains to be seen other than the fact that they are not saddled with printing costs etc right out of the gate thus allowing for greater flexibility and opportunity. What is being offered, however, is real reporting to provide real content to attract real readers. Advertisers like that combination.
I admit I like the concept of having a hyperlocal blog in my tiny neck of the woods. I have considered what it would take to even do it myself with a main source of inspiration and / or trepidation coming from Hyperlocalblogger.com. It is not an undertaking to be considered lightly and it requires a serious amount of time and effort. Nothing that’s worth it in this world is easy though, right?