I think I visited Smalltown.com a year ago and thought it looked interesting. Well, it seems they’ve been busy! They now host sites in five California communities…
Smalltown is the website where you can discover local treasures from the best source: your neighbors. Find a great babysitter, carpenter or stylist. Read reviews of the high school play. Watch a video clip about a new restaurant.
Smalltown recieved $3M of Series A investment about a year ago. But what caught my attention was co-founder Hal Rucker’s recent blog posting…
Which makes more sense for local: generate deep and uniquely useful content in a small geography, then replicate that process for hundreds of towns, or launch the whole US with shallow content all at once? (Choose one, because you can’t launch with deep local content everywhere at the same time.) InsiderPages went wide and shallow and it didn’t work out. Backfence tried to go deep in several regions at the same time and it, too, couldn’t get enough traction. Smalltown is going very deep in a very small geography, with plans to replicate that success quickly when we have all the technology and marketing knobs dialed in.
This gets at my previous postings about authentic local sites vs. global giants masquerading as local sites. As the number of web offerings explode, quality of information and genuine local knowledge will become more and more valuable. Sites that tap into that will become gems among the countless “wide and shallow” offerings.
I can foresee each city in the country having its own authentically local site (or sites) in the next few years that clearly dominate their town’s online space. Just like when every city had 1, 2, 3 or more daily newspapers. Just like in the past when you wanted news, sports, weather, debate, advertising, coupons, classifieds, etc… most people reached for the Gazette or Sentinel or whatever dominated the local newspaper scene.
Some sites will be homegrown entrepreneurial efforts (e.g., iBrattleboro), others may be a morphed newspaper that gets online done right, some areas will be covered by a “chain” like Smalltown or Backfence (RIP), and other poor towns will only have soulless cookie cutter sites supplied top-down by a giant dot.com.
So Smalltown appears to be doing the hard work of developing truly local sites based on their proprietary platform and process. I’m impressed with the concept. I’m not familiar with their initial communities, so it’s hard to assess the results to date, and I haven’t focused on the technology they’ve developed. More power to ’em. 🙂