I’m beginning to think that the old phrase “think globally, act locally” has become an appropriate slogan for Web 2.0. (Or perhaps an alternative might be “think global, try to monetize the sh*t out of local”.) With the rise of location-based services like Gowalla, Foursquare, and Facebook Places, local-friendly deal sites like Groupon, LivingSocial and Yipit, and local-happy news services Patch.com, Everyblock, and Baristanet, the message is clear: It’s cool to be local. All the kids are doing it.
A new eMagazine called Street Fight has grouped these businesses under one umbrella, dubbed it the “hyperlocal industry”, and aims to be the industry’s main source of news and analysis. I’ll let you decide whether an industry getting its very own trade publication is an augur of exploding growth and collective interest, or is actually no signifier at all (besides, even kite flying enthusiasts have their own resource).
But, I tend to side with the Street Fight perspective, in that the current state (and near-term evolution) of local-centric industries provides an interesting looking glass through which to see how big, new ideas will affect both new and old models of advertising, commerce, and community interaction.
The rise of the Web has taken a major toll on advertising in old media, but in aggregate, local businesses represent an enormous potential market. Yes, local advertising on the Web was slow to take off, even as newspapers and print advertising stumbled, but as innovative approaches to the problem have gained user adoption, so has local advertising. With a vengeance. Research firm BIA/Kelsey predicts that local digital ad revenue will grow to $42.5 billion by 2015.
Though Groupon has made news for over its snubbing a $6 billion acquisition offer from Google and lofty pre-IPO valuation of $25 billion, daily deals sites — and hyper local media services to boot — continue to struggle with sustainable business models. In the case of Groupon, local businesses want to see its partnerships resulting in greater customer loyalty and retention, and some are finding that the benefit of Groupon as a publicity machine may not outweigh the cost of offering enormous discounts.
Regardless, the local space is getting more buzz than ever before, and I think Street Fight is brilliant to position itself as a source covering the companies and entrepreneurs making news in hyperlocal media, retail, and location-based efforts. As I mentioned, the companies and startups leading the way towards finding sustainable business models, and proper leveraging of local advertising, stand to make a lot of money — and no doubt will be crowned Silicon Valley darlings. And so, Street Fight aims to focus on these very “ideas about sustainable business models for the hyperlocal news, information and advertising efforts”, according to its blog.
What else will Local’s new trade pub offer you fanatical localists out there? It looks like the site’s primary fare will be news analysis, like “Is The Examiner A Content Farm?” and Q&As, like this one with Gowalla’s Josh Williams. Of course, Street Fight also plans to expand on its news foundation to include proprietary research on the local space, to launch events focused on idea-exchange and collaboration in local, as well as a job listings section. The startup aims to make proprietary research and events the core of its own business model.
Street Fight is co-founded by Laura Rich, a veteran of Portfolio.com, FastCompany.com, the New York Times, and co-founder of Recessionwire.com, and David Hirschman, formerly of Big Think and Mediabistro. The site also added Rick Robinson, the founding editor of AOL Digital City (which became Aol Local) as an advisor, and acquired his geosocial news site, Locl.ly. Altogether, the startup has amassed some serious new and old media talent.
There are certainly a lot of questions that remain unanswered in the booming local space, and if Street Fight can position itself as a definitive resource for hyperlocal issues, and doesn’t just cater to startups, but to old-school companies as well, the niche news platform could ride Silicon Valley’s prize pony right to the top.
That is, of course, if TechCrunch Local doesn’t crush its dreams like a hyper-tiny bug.