In the past two weeks we’ve seen two very interesting developments in the realm of hyperlocal news and media. First, on Wednesday January 15th, media giant AOL announced that it had sold the majority stake in Patch -- its struggling local news division -- to Hale Global, an investment company that specializes in turning around troubled companies through technological innovation. Then, on Tuesday January 21st, the Chicago Tribune reported that Chicago-based hyperlocal website EveryBlock would be re-launching after being shuttered in February of 2013.
For the most part, when one thinks of “news” these days, they think of the dissemination of information across mass media channels. While this dissemination has changed dramatically over the last couple decades -- from traditional print to television & radio to the Internet and most recently to social media like Facebook and Twitter -- one thing that has likely remained constant is that “news” to most folks suggests stories and events being reported upon on a grand scale.
Thanks to new real-time channels like Twitter and Facebook, we are able to learn about and follow global revolutions and national tragedies as they are actually happening no matter where we are located.
But on a smaller scale, these very same channels allow us to consume and share information on a hyperlocal scale. For example, this summer Google began testing a “local news ‘card’ in its Google Now service, which is built into all new Android smartphones and is available on the iPhone through Google’s Search app.”
At this year’s CES conference in early January, with the announcement of Yahoo News Digest, the Yahoo Food and Yahoo Tech digital magazines, and native ads and new advertiser buying platforms, Marissa Mayer basically revealed to the world her plan to refocus Yahoo! as a giant news and media play.
More recently, “Twitter has made headlines with the quiet launch of its experimental Nearby timeline, which allows eligible mobile users to discover tweets posted by others in their immediate vicinity, regardless of whether they are following them.”
So, with the likes of Yahoo! and Google seemingly making a concerted effort to enter the hyperlocal market for discovery and dissemination of news and information, why is it that others, like AOL, can’t seem to get it right? And is there room for a “little guy” -- like EveryBlock -- to compete with the likes of an emerging media giant like Twitter?
As with most unknowns in the digital/tech/media space, it depends who you ask. One thing that’s for certain, though, is that the need to reach consumers on a hyperlocal scale -- whether by media publishers, retailers or advertisers -- is not going away, and the field feels wide open at this point.