It’s been said that individuals today are increasingly disconnected from their communities. They are “bowling alone”; i.e., although the number of people who bowl has increased in the last 20 years, the number of people that bowl in leagues has decreased. Since people bowl alone they do not participate in social interaction and civic discussions that might occur in a league environment.
The Internet has been criticized for its isolating impact on society. In many cases increased engagement in online activities results in exacerbation of the “bowling alone” phenomenon.
There is a huge market void in local online media. With the exception of business search/reviews, no one has solved for community connection and conversation at the neighborhood or town level at scale. This brings me to the opportunity of “digitizing local.”
Some of the most passionate and well informed citizens in the country still communicate about their communities through print newsletters, in person meetings, and other offline means. These people thrive on being active locally. If you can somehow harness their knowledge, energy, and networks, you can create a vast forum of local influencers and relevant evergreen local content…
This, of course, is exactly what Front Porch Forum is all about in the 19 Vermont towns that comprise greater Burlington.
He goes one to say that no one has cracked this mystery at scale. Perhaps that’s the wrong way to look at it. Kind of like saying that none of the big box retailers have yet to really feel like a valuable local business. It could be that, when it comes to local, the internet will deliver on its promise of decentralization and small scale and we’ll see thousands of super-valuable local sites rising up, each unique to their own special community… not the one-size-fits-all big box approach emanating from Silicon Valley. Kind of like 100 years ago when every town had its own stand-alone, locally owned, daily newspaper.
Of course, the chains came along and gobbled up those papers eventually and left us with the USAToday model.
Maybe the internet will help usher back true local flavor and thousands of successful local media companies that enliven and enrich their home towns in ways that no clever distant mashup could ever achieve.