Jonathan at Digital Street Journal offers a lengthy post on Backfence, reviewing some of what others have said, and including his own first-person observations as somebody who seems to have paid a good deal of attention to Backfence since its inception.
He addresses several points, but this one about advertising applies to us all, and I have enough experience dealing with small, locally owned businesses to know it’s true:
Problem two is often overlooked, but it huge nevertheless. Small, local businesses often have no clue about advertising. They often see it strictly as a cost item and if they do it, they either want to do it as cheaply as possible or theyâ€™ll choose a very traditional vehicle. The pizza place, the service station, the dentist. Fliers, yellow pages, an ad in the local paper. Outside real estate, I sincerely doubt that there are enough communities with enough small businesses that would be willing to fork over $$ to a local citizens media/journalism site to make it profitable. At least on a mass scale that Backfence envisioned. A Backfence would have to end up going after Pizza Hut or Dominoes because the local pizza place declined to work out a long term advertising deal. That local pizza place probably doesnâ€™t even have a website and likely is ignorant about online advertising.
Hear me….See me… I’m here waving my arms like a Katrina victim on a roof top!! Hyper-local can work, is working!!! If your revenue models are on target with what others consider valuable….then the value is automatic, to many people are trying to sell the idea that some of these local sites are valuable just because of the local user generated content…and usually the content is derived from a handful of locals that are town ego-maniacs that take the open forum to advance their opinions…when in the real world, people discount these reviews…Let’s redefine Hyper-local to be accurate local information generated by the business owners – as they are the focus of advertising dollars and the only ones that should be able to convey the truth about their business….bottom line if a business is poorly run the locals stop using it….but Hyper-local is to wide a vertical…DiscoverOurTown is Hyper-local with user generated content from the only person that matters…the business owners!! The local news â€“ the local gossip should be one tab among many on a siteâ€¦not the whole siteâ€¦Iâ€™m waiting for JudysBook to announce the same problem soonâ€¦even though it has taken a very large step into the advertising model with banners, towers and more with national advertisers!…Just what the consumer wants in a local siteâ€¦Right???
The business owner is the only person who matters? The one with the biggest conflict of interest? I don’t think so.
Major flaw in that model: It’s not conversational. It’s still one sided.
And studies, experience shows that what really matters is consumer reviews and ratings. Amazon ring a bell?
[…] Howard Owens read it and then pointed out in agreement the difficulties of bringing in local ad dollars. Many small, local businesses are simply afraid to advertise. They don’t understand it and they see it strictly as a cost item. If they go ahead and try it, they usually do it as cheaply as possible or go a very traditional route. Online isn’t on their radar. […]
[…] OK, good point, to an extent. It may be that sister. Or friend. Or, for that matter, enemy or competitor. But having an opportunity to allow multiple reviews makes it more credible. As Howard Owens pointed out, take a look at Amazon. Or eBay with its rating system. […]