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Hyperlocal Websites Face Same Problem As Newspapers

hlw.jpegWith the shuttering of all these small, local dailies, everyone is wondering where they will find their local news. Well, techies, as usual, have the answer. In the absence of local papers, you can have a hyperlocal website.

New websites are popping up every day that are offering local news for not just your state, not just your city, but potentially as close as your own block. “Sites, like EveryBlock, Outside.in, Placeblogger and Patch, collect links to articles and blogs and often supplement them with data from local governments and other sources,” reports the New York Times. “They might let a visitor know about an arrest a block away, the sale of a home down the street and reviews of nearby restaurants.”

While sites like these have been in development for years, a new urgency has taken shape in the last few months as local papers like the Rocky Mountain News and The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, have stopped printing.

Like newspapers though, these sites need to bring in revenue to sustain themselves. Thus far they have only had limited success selling advertisement. The problem is when you slice the market so small, there aren’t enough viewers of a given page to make the ad revenue worth while. Some sites have taken to approaching local mom and pop stores, but this is an expensive and inefficient system for global sites to take on.

In some ways the environment is right for these start-ups. In the last several years, neighborhood blogs have sprouted across the country, providing the sites with free, ready-made content they can link to. And new tools, like advanced search techniques and cellphones with GPS capability, help the sites figure out which articles to show to which readers in which neighborhoods.

Still like every outlet from Twitter to local newspapers, the bottom line is going to be revenue. If these sites cannot create a functional business model, they are going to be in the same situation as the newspapers they are hoping to replace.

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