It seems that every few weeks we’ll read about a new hyperlocal startup that is going to transform the industry. Recently there was an article and discussion about Brother.ly, which is focusing on the Philadelphia area. Like most articles in this space, the discussion centered around past failues and what Brother.ly will do differently to achieve a more successful result.
I was particularly intrigued by one of the comments, made by Brian Ostrovsky:
“I think part of what has challenged hyperlocal is the over fixation on news and news alone. Community is about news, events and activities, businesses and more which is why we like to emulate Main Street.”
Brian is exactly right. News is a very important part of hyperlocal, but it’s just the start. This is the piece that seems to be missing from many business models – if the focus is simply on content and advertising, what brings the community together? It’s really not the content – and this is meant in the most flattering way possible. The content is almost always very good – there is no shortage of great writers and story tellers.
Further, the explosion of social media has shown us how much people like to actively engage with the community. That’s not just responding to articles, but interacting with the authors as well as the business leaders in their community.
Most hyperlocal properties are wary of any other site or tool that might take eyeballs away from their site. Clearly having a large and engaged set of users is important, but at what point do we stop focusing so much on click-thru rates and impressions? Engagement is the key term – whether that be events, promotions and activities, feedback about specific businesses or events and general participation from the broader audience.
Bizyhood’s vision is that small businesses and the community can engage online even more than they have traditionally done offline. Offline engagement was never simply about advertising, and online won’t be either. Having a way to aggregate and disseminate content across multiple channels – whether it be news, events, promotions or advertisements – as well as actively engage with the people that consume that content – will be a critical part of hyperlocal’s success. We wish Brother.ly much success – and we’re here and ready to assist them (and other hyperlocal news sites) with that deeper engagement.