Hyperlocal Sites Make Gains, But Struggle With Dropoff In Online Ad Spending

imageAs more newspapers face the end of the print life — or go out of business altogether — hyperlocal sites are going to face their first real test. A NYT piece takes the pulse of four promising contenders — EveryBlock, Outside.in, Placeblogger and the Tim Armstrong-backed Patch, and finds that some are more ready to step into the void in metro coverage than others. But most are still getting up to speed.

Hyperlocals need newspapers too: The hyperlocal rubric can describe a number of different approaches. For the most part, hyperlocal sites mainly rely on the news coming from the very endangered newspapers they purport to replace. Others like Patch hire reporters to cover the local police blotter and school-board meetings, which in major metro areas tend to be the purview of community papers. So very few are poised to fill the breach that would be left by the loss of a daily. But the bigger challenge is coming from the newspapers themselves, like the NYTimes.com, which has been setting up community sites tied to neighborhoods in New York and New Jersey. A lot has changed since the demise of the Washington Post’s ill-fated hyperlocal site, LoudounExtra.com, but its experience is a cautionary tale for these other expanding ventures. More after the jump.

Photo Credit: Lusi

Lessons to learn: The hyperlocal upstarts who would replace their hometown newspapers do well to remember the lessons associated with WaPo’s failure: namely, using outside reporters who were unable to integrate themselves into the neighborhood; lack of major promotion; inability to tie coverage to the print daily. So far, Patch has seemed to get itself some good traction for the professional reporting it does, as the NYT acknowledges that the blog has gotten at least two stories picked up and referred to by the The Newark Star-Ledger’s site in the past month.

One problem in common: There’s one other challenge facing growing hyperlocal sites. Up until the latter half of the year, local was a major engine of online ad growth. But since this past fall’s global financial meltdown, even local ad spending has been pulling back. So even though they are loaded down with millions of dollars of debt and managing huge overhead costs, the current economic climate makes the question of survival just as urgent for hyperlocal sites as well as newspapers.


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