Peter Horan, CEO of IAC Media & Advertising, gave a speech entitled, “What’s Local ReallyAbout?” He said that we are “now in the second decade of local: So much promise. So much logic. So little progress. How come?” His answer was that we are in the age of Internet-driven media where local isn’t about reading, it’s about doing.
Peter told the audience that the litmus test for local is usefulness, but he went on to describe the issue that has been facing city sites since they evolved from being mere bulletin boards hosted by a techie in a community. He called this the Grand Canyon of local – the trade-off between efficiency and effectiveness. Few media are able to bridge this gap. In order to keep costs down, city sites need self-service, low cost of sales and abundant promotional coverage at very low prices. But to meet the needs of consumers and advertisers, they require such high-expense items as a strong sales force, unique content and broad market coverage. Under Peter’s leadership, Citysearch is well on its way.
I read this to mean that few local websites have figured out how to continually crank out enough quality content to attract a sizable audience while keeping expenses in check.
Our early findings indicate that Front Porch Forum may well be an engine that can drive a local site. We have tremendous traffic (nearly 25% of our pilot city subscribe… word of mouth) and people love it. They go door-to-door to recruit their neighbors. The expense of moderating the neighborhood conversations is modest, but not the web 2.0 dream of zero… nor should it be. Plenty of other local online services could be hung on FPF as the core… it’s what people come back to weekly, even daily.