Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Prospect for Hyperlocal Continues to Look Good -- But can it capture the ad market?

As print media continues to shed reporters and readers, the hyperlocal continues to show potential. That's because while there will always be sources for national news, people still want local news.

The problem for marketers is that there may be too many hyperlocal sites online and those sites don't generate mass-market traffic, making for a very fragmented user base. Targeting hyperlocal blogs and sites can be a great way to generate coverage, but it takes more effort to reach the many hyperlocal sites, and those sites reach a smaller group than maligned print media.

In an interesting story, "Can Anyone Tap the $100 Billion Potential of Hyperlocal News?," Fast Company looks at the problem from an advertising perspective -- that's the $100B in question.

What's interesting about news by search engine is that it has enabled users to select the news that interests them, which is a far less worthy slogan than the Times' "All the news that's fit to print." (Will the Times have to update its slogan to "All the news that's fit to text?")

While a lot of people consider it to be better, news by search engine (NBSE) actually destroys substantial value. By way of example, the Boston Globe was worth $1.1B when the Times bought it a decade ago. But now the Times can't even give away the paper, despite the fact that it's the market leader, is nationally known, wins journalism awards, etc.

The bottom-line is that hyperlocal should survive, but it won't pick up all the advertising dollars that no longer go to print.

I'm not sure where that money will go, but I do know that's bad news for traditional journalism even as its practiced online. Fully researched journalism takes time, resources and money, and without subscription fees and without advertising support, only a few outlets will be able to maintain journalistic standards.

Some colleagues and clients have been talking about the implications of that. It is in the interest of PR functions that journalism maintains its credibility. I'm going to explore this further in future posts. Let me know what you think.

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