Hyperlocal News is over-hyped (now updated)

There are some interesting comments on hyperlocal news at Buzz Machine. I must admit I’ve never understood why so many people see hyperlocal as the wave of the future, but then I’ve never been overly interested in local news. (And yes I hate the word hyperlocal too but for lack of an alternative I’ll just use it anyway.)

When I hear the virtues of hyperlocal extolled, I always want to know what exactly the extollers think is currently going uncovered. Anyone have any examples to give? And I do agree with the commenter who says, that once you get started, you can never be hyperlocal enough.

This is not to say that I don’t see opportunities in local. Google does fall down when it comes to telling me the best Italian restaurants in town and also on helping me find out how good that pasta place on the corner is. Chowhound might help or I might find a review from one of the local papers — or not. But I would welcome a nice, smart site that would do all that work for me — and find me a good plumber too.

Unfortunately, I don’t think user generated content is the answer. Some user generated content maybe, but I also think a good moderator/guide/modified gatekeeper has to figure somewhere in the equation otherwise you just end up in a big time-sucking hole.

Here are some other sceptical reports on hyperlocal:

Is EveryBlock is going to bump into EveryProblem that BlockRocker did?

Wrong On Hyperlocal: Google And Web 1.0 Killed Backfence

Does hyper-local make sense online?
(with lots of great links)

Paid Content reports on the Dealmakers Summit where the NYT’s Lorne Manly interviewed Chris Saridakis, Gannett’s new SVP and chief digital officer, who came to the company in 2005 when Gannett acquired his online advertising company, Pointroll, for $100 million. Commenting on demographics, Saridakis said:

The traditional newspaper model targets people based on where they live, but this needs to change: “You just can’t target people by places, you target people by who they are.” Gannet has identified certain demographics, with whom it already has a print link, that it can do more to reach. Among them: sports fans, moms, nurses, military personnel. The company has already made some acquisitions aimed at sports fans and it’s established a network of mom-focused suites. Following the session, I caught up with Saridakis, who suggested that some of the company’s M&A; activity would revolve around the idea of targeting certain demographics, particularly the ones named above.

As far as editorial content is concerned, this kind of targeting makes way more sense to me than hyperlocal. Where hyperlocal does enter into it, however, is in the advertising arena — and especially when what’s being advertised is services that can’t be ordered on the internet. Here’s Saridakis on the “dollars for dimes” problem.

Probably the most critical, but difficult issue. Advertising: “The nice thing is, and I think Gannett has been able to prove it, you can sell online local advertising… it may be collecting dimes, but we have a lot of people collecting dimes.” In addition to targeting local ads, Gannett can aggregate an audience by vertical and sell that audience to a national advertiser.

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