Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Will Hyper-Local News Work?!?

Listeners of the World,

OurTown, Patch, Topix, Everyblock, Placeblogger, The Loop,, and the list goes on and on and on........these are "Hyper-Local News" and "Local News Aggregation" sites that have been founded in the last 5 years. Many different people and large corporations have been trying to fill the huge "white space" on the web that is hyper-local news, and in my opinion nobody has figured out the special recipe just yet!

There are many different factors to take in when starting a hyper local news site, some that just leave many scratching their heads. You need to create a model that will allow your contributors (or local editors) to make money giving them an incentive to contribute in the first place, while keeping in mind that you need a way to turn a profit as well to be able to keep the network alive! This I have found is the main problems with bigger networks (Patch, Topix, etc.). They create this network, but do not build in enough ways to generate revenue to actually let them make a profit......I mean from reports it looks like the most successful network is Patch with its 22 Million in revenue, but then you look at its spent which is 160 million!! That does not add up very friendly for the folks over at AOL.

Another main problem is figuring out the right workload for the individual editor / contributor. Many of the bigger networks have found that hiring someone within the actual area is the best way to go (which is the same for us here at OurTown), but then the question comes of how much to we expect out of this person? Many put the person in charge of all the content that goes on the site, where others put then in charge of the entire site, and others put them in charge of every aspect of the site. It becomes very hard to judge what a person can and cannot handle and with most of the sites just adding more and more work to each editor one begins to wonder how is all of the work going to get done?

Next problem is finding the right people for the job! There are many people out their that love to write, but you have to find someone with a "hyper-local news mindset" - meaning someone who is willing to work hard, write stories, curate an entire site, answer questions, be out in the community, become a self-promoter, plus more! It is not enough to just love writing to become an editor in most cases, which makes it a lot harder on the company to get enough of the right people in the door. Let's take two of the biggest networks in Patch and Topix.....It took Patch 160 million to get under 1000 local editors (that should get you a lot more) and then Topix got to around 3000 contributors, but then it turned into childish commentary and scandals instead of news that matters for the community. So in any case it is very hard to get a good amount of the same minded people who will make it work!

The last big problem I will mention here is getting the right viewership for these sites. There are many choices for news across the board (Newspaper / TV / Radio / Magazine / Internet) and some people (hard to believe, but true) just don't care about what is happening locally. They care more about world and national events, which is fine, but not the focus of a hyper local news site. You need the people who care about what is going on in the community, and people who care about the little story (little by national sites standards). You need to be able to reach out and touch the community, get the conversation started on YOUR SITE. That is the key!

Now with all of these problems, questions, and issues from may ask - why even try? Well the reason is simple and that is because it's important and people really do care about that type of news. We have changed OurTown a lot since the site first went live, and I am sure we will be changing it a lot more in the future. We feel that we are really close to getting the "right recipe" and hopefully one of will get it!

Your OurTown Superhero,


Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Some New Features !

Listeners of the World,

As you know here at OurTown Media we believe that the best sites are the forever evolving sites that keep up with new trends, technology, new widgets, and so much more. That is why we have developers working every day not only on fixes, but on new features that for the most part have been suggested from our Local Editors! Over the past month we have added some new very cool features (that I am sure some have seen around), and I wanted to go over each one.

New Color Schemes :

- As you have noticed OurTown's colors have changed and not all the sites have the same color anymore. Well that is because we have brought back the ability to change your color scheme. You are able to change this by going to "Home" within your admin and going to the "Color Scheme" section. We have several new schemes that you can preview right from that page, and if you don't find one that is perfect then let us know! We are able to add in different color schemes at will!

New Text Editor :

- We have also enhanced our local article section by upgrading to a brand new text editor complete with many new features. This editor is up-to-date with the latest features and functionality that every journalism, blogger, or OurTown Local Editor could want! You will now be able to do even more when writing a new article.

New Language Converter :

- can now be ready in any of the major languages from around the world! In the footer of each page is a new Google Translator that will allow you to pick a language and then instantly the entire site is translated to that specific language. This has been a great new feature for many local editors trying to reach everyone in their community. Not only does it help reach those who can not speak English, but also allows community members that may have English has their second language to read more comfortably in their native language.

New Comment Counter :

- We have many requests from local editors and viewers to have an easy way to see what stories were getting comments and where the main conversation is on the site. So we created the new comment counter which allows local editors and users to see which articles are being commented on right from the main pages of the site. We hope that this increases conversation and helps local editors see which of their stories are appealing more to their community!

Towns to Check Out

- Now we know that this is not a new feature and you have been able to see this section on the OurTown Home Page for a while, but we have now upgraded the feature. The list has now been extended to 10 towns (instead of 5) and those towns are based off of site traffic. The site with the most traffic receives the number 1 spot and so on down the list. We believe this helps give local editors a new goal and some friendly competition!

That is it for now, but be sure that we are still currently working on new features that will be added to OurTown very shortly. Just as a teaser one of them will be a new Groupon feature for all those daily deal users out there!

Your OurTown Superhero,