Before everything became virtual, most of the things we interacted with were local. We bought books at Barnes & Noble, not on Amazon, we read the NY Times, not The Huffington Post. Finding an apartment was a drag before Craigslist. Then came Dot Com and Web 2.0 and we could find every piece of information, every product and even most of our “friends” online. The local turned out to be irrelevant – the virtual was what we wanted. But then the world wide web became bigger and bigger. Relevant local information got lost in the long tail. We realized that local is still important and thus the demand for hyperlocal information began to grow.
To see what that means, let’s have a look at three online categories that utilize hyperlocal information:
One of the first hyperlocal applications were local news websites, which filled in the gap the dying print industry left behind. Often these news site/ blog crossovers are specific to a certain neighborhood. There are quite a few of these blogs around in New York, such as the Gothamist which is now also available in many other cities, or the Brownstoner, which focuses on real estate specific news. But lately there are more and more start-ups that offer a platform for hyperlocal information, mash-ups that gather data from different sources about a neighborhood or town. For example, Everyblock lets users create a newsfeed for a specific address or ZIP code and collects information such as news, photos, reviews and governmental information (e.g. crime rate). Outside.in and Placeblogger offer similar services while Patch puts together sites for you and adds more categories plus an editorial process to the collection.
Hyperlocal social networks
Although it seems counterintuitive to build ones social network on virtual encounters, the most successful sites in this arena, Facebook and MySpace prove the contrary. However, with the ubiquitous availability of local-based services and devices (from Google Maps mash-ups to GPS enabled phones), hyperlocal social networks are beginning to grow and become more important.
The ultimate goal for any hyperlocal network should be to get people together who share a physical location, temporarily or permanently. There are few purely web-based applications such as STACKD (a SUPERMETRIC project), which aims to connect people within and around office buildings. Most players in this game offer location-based services through mobile phone applications. The top four are FourSquare, Gowalla, BrightKite and Loopt. They all work somewhat the same: you check in at a location (e.g. a café, bar, store) and share the info with your friends (via the app, Facebook or Twitter). You can see who else is around and might get in touch. Most apps will reward check-ins with virtual gifts/ prizes which will make you climb up the ladder within your community. Some applications feel more like a game (Gowalla) where others focus on the social component (FourSquare).
Online advertising has revolutionized the market and Google is the incarnation of this phenomenon. The method and reason for success lies in content sensitive information or ads in this case. Google found the matching algorithms to display the ads that are most relevant for a website or search engine visitor.
In many cases local information makes an ad even more relevant. If you think about products you use and buy on a daily basis or multiple times per week or products you consume right away (food and drinks), local-based advertising adds a lot of value. In an article for FastCompany, Michael Gluckstadt evaluates the hyperlocal advertising market at $100 Billion. There seems to be evidence that he might be right: DataSphere just raised $10.8 Million in series B funding to expand their software offerings in this area. Where (a uLocate service) just launched a new hypelocal ad network to connect local merchants with customers (e.g. via coupons on augmented reality apps). There seems to be a lot going on right now but the market is still young and it’s not clear what will work yet. Ultimately, services must focus on the value for users. As long as ads are fun, relevant and somewhat unobtrusive there is a true potential to become the next generation AdWords.
Comments ( 4 )
Add a Comment
Additional comments powered by BackType