The Poynter Institute’s Rick Edmonds brings up an interesting point in the new surge of hyperlocal news. In essence, Edmonds suggests that the news served up on hyperlocal sites isn’t necessarily “urgent” for readers.
In terms of content value, he’s right. The “chicken dinner’ news that hyperlocal strives for doesn’t carry the same weight as, say, an airliner crash or a political scandal. And particularly, if the hyperlocal site is the dominant or only source of news in its communities, Edmonds is certainly be on mark…it’s news you can wait for.
However, what we’re seeing is the proliferation of hyperlocal ventures in large markets, where not only is there competition among the local traditional brands, but among hyperlocal online efforts as well. AOL, for example, is investing its Patch.com venture heavily into the New York/New Jersey, L.A,, San Francisco, Chicago and Boston markets, markets not necessarily known for their dearth of local offerings. In Chicago alone, AOL’s Patch is going up against the Tribune Company’s Triblocal, as well as few independent start-ups (like Arlington Heights’ The Cardinal), in addition to some already well-established metro and suburban daily and weekly newspapers, many of which focus coverage on very local news. (Disclosure: I am employed by Paddock Publication’s Daily Herald, one of those established suburban Chicago newspapers, though I do not speak for them in this posting).
(Edmonds notes that his community in the Tampa Bay area isn’t being served by Patch yet, and that suits him fine. AOL probably hasn’t gone there not because the it need a hyperlocal presence, but I’m sure it has to do with area’s demographics not meeting AOL’s standards for attracting advertising dollars. Nothing personal, Rick…)
I don’t believe today’s marketplace will be able to support such a plethora of hyperlocal. Therefore, the survival of these sites will be dependent on what they can give their audience, and how quickly. Yes, urgency may play a key role in the local soccer league scores. But it will also be a factor in the ability to deliver relevant, accurate and reliable information to its readers, whether it be the latest police reports from down the street of where one can find a great deal on a pizza in town.
Urgency will be in the eyes of the customer. When he comes to your site, you better have what he’s looking for, and it better be easily accessible. If he’s using a mobile device, you better be able to push that information just as fast as he demands. That, coupled with reliability, accuracy and trust, will win the battle of hyperlocals.
Is hyperlocal news necessarily urgent news?
Only if and when the customer demands it.