G. Patton Hughes writes about his experience operating a hyperlocal news site called paulding.com… one focused on the network and the other on advertising. Some excerpts (well… lots of excerpts)…
Key to this success in the hyperlocal environment is the audience… For myspace it is the peers of the tweens and teens; for facebook, college peers constitute the largest draw. Frankly, one of the main reasons both sites are a success is that most there are probably on the make.
While there is some of that on paulding.com, the draw is infinitely more community minded. Many come to this hyperlocal community because they need the knowledge of those who live and know the community.
The point is each kind of social network targets a different demographic group – and most are places where ‘people like me’ congregate. That the large national social networks seem to target the youth is unmistakable. What is equally obvious is that in the hyperlocal sphere, it is geography rather than the common angst of being pubescent that is at the core of the social mortar.
This meas the hyperlocal network naturally targets adults living in a community. The prom is decidedly less an issue than is deciding the communities future by passing a fire tax. The challenges they face are politics, dealing with government, dealing with the schools, dealing with fulfilling the needs of the family to shelter, feed, clothe, educate, entertain and keep its children safe. All of these processes are at the core of adult involvement in a community. It is their interests, presence and experience and their willingness to share that knowledge that are at the core of the value proposition of the hyperlocal social network.
The power of this network is that as it forms and grows it begins to write the narrative of the life of the community. In doing so it naturally challenges the schools, the newspapers, the politicians and the business community – any and all who previously controlled the public debate. The authority of those who head local institutions will likely find themselves in the midst of unanticipated conflicts.
I just can’t see adults with family and community responsibilities spending all day “poking friends” on Facebook. Seems I’m not alone…
Remember the Gail Sheehy’s book “Passages?” Consider that people in the Internet age are going through one of many stages in life. As they age they will not so much change their media habits as adapt them to the new demands they face. I’m pretty certain they will move on from these national peer group networks and with the nesting instinct, instead turn to tend their gardens in their own backyards. My gut is they will migrate to a hyperlocal social network if one exists in their community and that migration will be an element of their passage from being kids to adults…
I fully believe that hyperlocal networks will become integral to the communities. Part virtual tool, part social network and part news, their function is to aggregate the knowledge and understanding of the adults in a community. As in all networks, it is the people who are the most valuable resource. It is their local knowledge that adds value.
However I question the next point… I think the glue is connecting with those around you rather than local news.
Local news is the glue that brings these largely disparate elements of community life together and only a fool would expect the result to be quiet order. Strife and conflict are as natural an element of the network as are death and taxes. Those who create these hyperlocal social-networks will have to be adept at managing them.
Managing that and bringing together a new kind of community that has more cohesion than dissention is the challenge of the hyperlocal community network builder.
For those who might say, but it is the sales, stupid, I can’t over-emphasize that commerce is the life-blood of a community network and permeates all aspects of the community. The task of the 21st century hyperlocal publisher is to build a virtual social, economic, political and spiritual network that transcends the conflicts of individuals and ultimately unites all elements of the community by telling their individual stories.
The tool is radically different from a newspaper. There will be hundreds or thousands of individual writers conversing. Still, when it is all distilled, the product of the hyperlocal network is just a new kind of journalism.
I can see how this looks like a new kind of journalism to a journalist… but I see it more as a new kind of citizenship… one where lots of people are involved in a open conversation with those around them about issues large and small… a huge departure from the individualism and isolation so in vogue today.
And about ad sales…
The secret of good sales is a good salesperson… give a good salesperson a product like Paulding.com with our average 10,000 daily visits, average 15 pages per visit and 13 minute plus average visit and money will come.
Yes, I’m celebrating a bit because we’ve had our best month yet. Not great but we’re now at about 20 percent of target in revenues up from about 12 percent. Our target revenue is $25,000/mo.
[Also] for a hyperlocal site to get national advertising revenues they’re going to have to either go with Google adsense or find some other kind of national representation.
The first is http://www.thenewsroom.com. This is generating about $250-300/month with my traffic and has given me access to those local stories… The second national site is http://www.adsdaq.com which is serving the purpose of a national advertising representative… They are selling about 25 percent of that inventory and and I’m netting over $300/month from the arrangement.This helps me establish a value the value locally for these front page banners at about $1400/month which, while they don’t sell for that locally, makes for good conversation with locals over the value of advertising on Paulding.com.
And do know that establishing that value proposition is a critical task in local sales… but not nearly as important as a good salesperson.
Great stuff… congratulations and thanks to Paulding.com