Placeblogging (aka Hyperlocal)
I wrote a post about hyperlocal content almost two years ago, comparing Backfence to the 101 effort in North Carolina. I said this about hyperlocal content (now called placeblogging) at that time:
Is this a venture fundable opportunity? In time, certainly. Is it too early right now? Probably. But this is an area worth watching closely and I will be doing that.
I have been watching this area closely ever since and while there have been a number of interesting services that have developed, I am not sure any of them are venture scale. I like Jonathan Weber's New West Network. I like George Johnson's Buffalo Rising. I like Fresno Famous which the Fresno Bee just bought. I like Baristanet.
But as much as I like these placeblogs, I've been looking for something that can scale more than a local blog. And as I said in that initial post:
But 101 does something that I think is absolutely critical. It aggregates its content from people who are already blogging on their own. It grabs that content and aggregates it and features it. It does not require that people come to 101 to post their content. I think that is the right model for a truly scaleable local platform.
When Susan and Mark from Backfence came to see me back then, I told them that I didn't think building a platform for people to come to post about their community was the right approach. I told them that people are already blogging and the thing to do is aggregate all that activity. I read recently on Matthew Ingram's blog that Susan and Mark have left Backfence over "strategic differences". [Mark tells me that he actually has rejoined the company to refocus it. Sorry for getting that wrong]. That's too bad as they certainly brought a lot of passion and energy to the placeblogging effort.
We believe the big opportunity in user generated content is aggregation. My blog will only generate $30k per year in revenue. But Techmeme, which occasionally links to my blog, can generate a lot more. Because they aggregate the content of hundreds, maybe thousands of blogs.
So that's why I am excited to see some new services arriving on the placeblogging scene. Last week we saw the launch of Placeblogger, a new service by Lisa Williams of Watertown's placeblog called H2Otown. Placeblogger, if you don't click on that link and check it out yourself, is a directory of placeblogs. You want to find the best placeblogs in your town? Try placeblogger.
But I am even more excited about Steven Johnson and John Geraci's outside.in. Outside.in is what you'd get if you combined google maps, technorati, and delicious and focused that service on placeblogs. I think outside.in is barely scratching the surface of what it can and should do, but already you can go there, type in your zip code and/or navigate via the map and find blog posts about your town/city/neighborhood.
Now that's a scalable model for placeblogging. And the best part is these aggregators are going to drive traffic to the placebloggers who are already churning out high quality content and they are going to incent others to start placeblogging. I posted on washington square park yesterday and that post is now in outside.in. Seeing my post getting picked up in an aggregator like that makes me interested in doing more placeblogging.
So now we've got an ecosystem developing around placeblogging. The issue never was the platform. That exists with blogger, typepad, wordpress, flickr, youtube, etc, etc. The issue was content, navigation, and discovery. And that is all coming together. Very nice.