Kelsey: Panel on hyperlocal content

Can Hyper-Local Work?
Chris DeVore, COO, Judy’s Book; Mary Lou Fulton, VP, audience development, The Bakersfield Californian; John Geraci, co-creator, Outside.In; Ryan Massie, senior project manager, Ask.com; Ian White, CEO, Urban Mapping

First question is, “how are you measuring success?”  Geraci said that since they’re aggregating a network of placeblogging content, one reader counts as success.

Fulton:  Local has to be about more than geography. Local is more complex. You shouldn’t define the future by old categories lifted from outdated directories or classifieds. Instead, look at how people are tagging their own content.

People are different on what sites they’re on.  The soccer mom on one of our sites is going to review a restaurant very differently than a user on Bakotopia.

“Ratings and recommendations are much more powerful when you’re aligned with your community.”

DeVore: To force people into a geolocation doesn’t really match the way people live their lives and how they consume information and shop.

The original idea behind Judy’s Book: If we can get people to create local content about local businesses, we thought businesses would see that we had their customers talking to each other that they would like that. We grossly under estimated the inertia and the value of feet on street, that merchants would just roll over and use self service on a site they’ve never heard of. Hindsight  is 20/20 and “duh, of course they won’t.”

New model: Aggregating offers. Answering the question: “What’s on sale near me?”

“Nobody cares about us, nobody cares about our brand.  We are in the landing page business.  Google is the front door to our business.  We would love for people to fall in love with our brand and come to our site, but we’re a small business with limited resources and our best chance of success is to get traffic to our site though Google.”

Geraci: Content providers should want their information everywhere in the ecosystem. The way YouTube and del.iso.us and Flickr  works is not by taking the information and lcoking it down and saying, you have to come to my site to create the content and then come back to view it. They are giving users the tools to create content and share it and play with it however they want.

“Some of the criticism we got was that pot holes aren’t very interesting, but if the pot holes are in your community, they are very interesting.”

Fulton: “We’ve talked about the importance of search for distribution, but people are very important means of distribution. ”

Massie: The top query on ask.com and Ask Local is “things to do” … it’s not about businesses or events, it’s “things to do.”

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