Hyperlocal is all the rage these days, and content companies, deal sites, and everyone in between are trying to find better ways to access (and advertise to) local markets. Over the last decade, the majority of media companies have attempted to launch internal or on-site outlets that cover local news, but most have met with middling success.
NearSay, a New York City-based startup that launched six months ago, began by asking a simple question: “Where do we get our neighborhood news?” NearSay’s founders, Trevor Sumner and David Pachter, were startled by the lackluster and confusing responses to that question and, in turn, the dearth of valuable neighborhood outlets for local news. So, for their answer, they started a platform that began as a realtime business newswire to allow local businesses in New York City to publish announcements (on events, deals, etc.) to the NearSay platform.
Now an aggressive publisher of neighborhood lifestyle news, the startup has partnered with small, local publications (where they exist) to allow local businesses to target their content to the people who can actually benefit from — and want to hear about — local news. To add to their platform, the startup launched LocalVox, which is (among other things) a white label advertorial publishing tool that allows niche publishers to syndicate their clients’ content across the startup’s network and blast that content out to social media outlets.
The idea was to create a Yellow Pages 3.0, which not only serves as a tool to help readers or searchers find telephone numbers or addresses of local merchants, but to actually help those merchants optimize their placement in search results and get found by the people who need them.
Today, the company is now calling itself LocalVox Media, and NearSay, its contextual newswire service, has become a feature of the platform. As a part of this rebranding, the startup is launching LocalVox 2.0, with which it is hoping to become a full, multichannel marketing tool for local businesses and publishers. The white label tool it launched initially was aimed at larger publishers which already had sales and customer service teams, but Version 2.0 makes the company a full-service solution for all publishers and local businesses.
To date, the platform has attracted 270 clients which are using the service to publish company events, promotions, and community programs through NearSay’s network; so, with LocalVox 2.0, the startup is looking to become a full-service tool for its clients by integrating Google Local optimization and social media management services.
Leveraging Google Places and Google Plus, social media, email marketing and more to create a simple way for their clients to generate news and target new and existing customers, LocalVox wants to enable community businesses to attain optimized Google placements — all through an all-in-one marketing solution characterized by a user-friendly interface. This last bit has become increasingly important, as local marketing solutions are realizing that products that sound technical or rely too heavily on self-service models are failing to see the adoption among small merchants that many hoped they would have.
Thus, LocalVox sees itself as a long-term marketing partner for its clients, not a quick fix. So, in contrast with Groupon’s model, which creates episodic bursts of activity and exposure for small businesses, LocalVox provides a searchable history of news content that lives on each business’ web page that is optimized for search engine placement and social media integration — all of which is intended to create additional exposure over time.
Or looking at LocalVox in juxtaposition with Aol’s hyperlocal news outlet Patch, for example, LocalVox sees its value not as a destination site, but in leveraging programs that engage consumers across multiple channels and take the pain of managing search engine placement, social media, and multichannel marketing strategies out of the hands of the merchants themselves.
What’s more, local businesses often find difficulties in updating and maintaining their websites with relevant content, and making their sites into workable, valuable communication platforms. So LocalVox wants to help them, say, upload customer lists and avoid going to a third-party source to upload a newsletter.
According to LocalVox Co-founder Trevor Sumner, it’s this approach that has led the startup to a 95 percent retention rate among participating businesses — compared to Groupon’s retention rate at 18 percent.
To date, the startup has raised a small angel round, but it is in the process of raising a series A round, Sumner says. Currently, LocalVox is only available in New York City, but the startup plans to expand into new markets beginning in early 2012.
And, for TechCrunch readers interested in testing LocalVox 2.0, the company is offering five local NYC businesses a free month of social media strategy and implementation as well as a free month of Google Places optimization. The startup will select the businesses from those who send emails to LocalSales@LocalVox.com with “TechCrunch” in the subject line.
For more, check the startup out at home here.