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Current hyperlocal news efforts are based on overly pessimistic revenue models. The collapse of local TV will change everything 12/16/07

Posted by Steve Boriss in Hyperlocal news.

Today’s experiments in hyperlocal, sub-metropolitan area news (summarized by MediaShift here) all seem to share a questionable assumption – that money will be tight compared to today’s mainstream news outlets. Most of the models are downright miserly when it comes to labor costs, typically assuming they must enlist volunteers or make heavy use of search engine robots as editors. This doesn’t seem right given that there should be even greater interest in hyperlocal news than the metropolitan-level news that dominates today – after all, what happens in our local neighborhoods, communities, schools, planning and zoning, roads, shopping areas, etc. has a much more direct impact on our day-to-day lives.

In fact, when you fully play-out the likely development of the Internet, there ought to be plenty of money to support full-time editorial hyperlocal talent. Local TV stations are going to be more and more questionable places for local advertisers to place their ad dollars. For one thing, TV networks are now cutting-out their local TV affiliates as middlemen in the distribution of primetime entertainment programming, through a combination of Internet distribution and wireless PC-to-TV technology. For another, these local TV stations will need to follow their audiences to the web where they will be competing for their audiences’ attention against multitudes of web sites, not just a handful of local TV channels. This is going to leave metropolitan-area-wide advertisers desperate for new places to place their ad dollars, and hyperlocal Internet news will be an obvious and highly-efficient choice. Moreover, just as Google uncovered a vast, untapped multitude of advertisers that never had the critical mass necessary to advertise nationally, hyperlocal sites will uncover multitudes of hyperlocal advertisers who never had an affordable advertising medium. So, let’s not sell hyperlocal news short. Hyperlocal will be the new Metro.


1. Joe Zekas - 12/16/07

This reeks of wishful thinking.

So far there’s been a yawning gap between what “ought to be” and what is and has been with regard to hyperlocal.

Hyperlocal, in various forms, has failed virtually everywhere it’s been tried over a period of a dozen years now.

Let’s sell it short and move on.

2. Steve Boriss - 12/16/07

Joe, No wishful thinking here, just following the facts and logic where they lead. I would not wish local TV stations to lose their core business. Yes, hyperlocal news has failed whenever it has not been given similar reporter and editorial resources as mainstream news. With sufficient resources, it can work, as multitudes of community papers have demonstrated.

3. Damon Kiesow - 12/17/07

It is optimistic to think newspapers can corner the hyper-local market when you consider that cable companies are rolling out technology that enables them to target news, information and advertising almost to a street-specific level.

So – it may not be the current local TV news orgs that make this happen – but TV as a medium is certainly in a good position to give newspapers a run for their money.

4. Steve Boriss - 12/17/07

Damon, I can’t predict right now which parties are going to dominate the hyperlocal business. What I will predict is that if newspapers and local TV stations don’t they are going to have to find something very different to do from what they are currently doing to stay in business.

5.   links for 2007-12-17 by andydickinson.net - 12/17/07

[…] Current hyperlocal news efforts are based on overly pessimistic revenue models. The collapse of loca… “Let’s not sell hyperlocal news short. Hyperlocal will be the new Metro.” (tags: hyperlocal) […]

6. Joe Zekas - 12/17/07


Paper yes, historically.

Where are those multitudes on the Internet?

7. Steve Boriss - 12/17/07

Joe, They’re coming. Very few have even noticed yet how vulnerable local TV is, so we’ve got a ways to go.

8. Randy Hagan - 12/18/07

Up here in Maine, we already have a successful “experiment” in hyperlocal news:


Developed to cover a gap in coverage between two larger daily newspapers, a group of disgruntled folks working for a weekly newspaper group started their own website built on the hyperlocal model.

The website has been successful, and in fact has spawned a non-daily paper to take on the staff’s former employer with good success.

So all you naysayers who say hyperlocal will never happen and never work, take heed. It is happening. And it does work well, if it’s well thought out and well executed. Which is the key to success for any media.

9. Notes from a Teacher: Mark on Media » Going hyperlocal - 12/18/07

[…] next to each other in my browser tabs are these: Steve Boriss’s Current hyperlocal news efforts are based on overly pessimistic revenue models. The collapse of loca… and a report from Lost Remote, TV news manager quits to work on blog, the blog being a hyperlocal […]

10. david dunkley gyimah - 12/20/07

One of the most intriguing aspects of regional vid news in London is the lack of it, unless you consider the half hour squeezed from traditional broadcasters as adequate.

Hyperlocal, thus, is a battle ground of sorts between broadcasters and newspapers across London in particular and the UK generally.

Regional newspapers passing through the video bottle neck, circa 2005, did so in part response to land grab the hyperlocal market – advertising n’ all, before mainstream media.

Some like the liverpool Echo and Manchester Evening News are proving formidable at providing local vid to strengthen their print brands.

Traditional media is doing its bit too e.g ITN with local news on broadband.

All in search of that pot of gold; the untapped ad revenue is counted in hundreds of millions of pounds.

But how micro can local go ?

City, town, community, street ?

We’ll be trying something like this out in January, which hopefully when it goes active with the back end might prove interesting, or not!


Ta for the opportunity to contribute.


11. Dave Bullard - 12/24/07

Hyperlocal can work and work pretty well.

We’re a 9 year old, independent pair of hyperlocal sites. We employ a couple of real reporters AND use everything the community sends us. Total employment: 6 (2 news, 1 sports, 2 sales, 1 webmaster/designer). Approx 15,000 daily visits in a combined market of 60,000.

The fallacy, IMHO, has been that hyperlocal sites built around one guy, frantically trying to get everyone else to contribute for free, was ever going to work.

People need the street-level view of their community that they can provide, but they also need the broader view, which has been the traditional role of journalism.

Newspapers are dying because they left out the former; one-man-local-blogs are struggling because they lack the latter.

Also, the high embedded costs of newspapers make hyperlocal difficult for them. They need to make so much from each advertisement that they must, by definition, price themselves out of reach for main street retailers. The only alternative is to price hyperlocal properly and thus compete against itself.


12. Steve Boriss - 12/24/07

Dave, Thanks for introducing yourself to my readers. From a business model perspective, it sounds to me like you are well on your way. Good luck!

13. Dave Bullard - 12/24/07


Thanks for the kind thoughts. I’ll let ya know if we ever make money 😉

Merry Christmas, all!


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