2009: the year hyperlocal becomes sustainable

What will the year of mass disruption lead to? That’s the question that Peter Krasilovsky pondered recently with his 2008 roundup of the local media / advertising business landscape.

Near the end of his piece, Peter riffs on the hyperlocal opportunities for 2009, suggesting lessons that we learned in the previous 12 months

We’ve learned that hyperlocal doesn’t live in a vacuum, and that there isn’t ready demand for block-by block coverage. But it is a useful add-on. Content platforms have become a commodity, but can be improved with navigation, tagging and geo-targeting.

We’ve also learned that mapping is a feature that can be greatly enhanced with personalization and advertising, and could be the basis for a new portal (but there are lots of new fronts for portals).

Naturally, I’m not giving up on block-by-block coverage yet. (In fact, we’re just getting started.) The trick is the execution. Much of the information that most people want doesn’t readily exist in a publicly available database. It’s in the conversations and community interactions between real people. (This is the key to Twitter’s amazing growth.)

And I believe that people want to know what’s happening in their neighborhood. See examples like PegasusNews and West Seattle Blog for proof.

So it’s a social media challenge, not a lack of audience demand. As Clay Shirky noted in Here Comes Everybody, there are three elements to successful social media: the promise, the tools and the bargain. Each is evolving on many different sites and in 2009 I predict we will start to see the right promise, matched with the right tool and the right bargain deliver a hyperlocal market that is commercially sustainable.

Whether it becomes the “basis for a new portal,” I’m not sure. A local portal maybe. But doing hyperlocal on a national scale is going to be a steeper climb.

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