The debate is brewing about the financial stability of hyperlocal sites. When Gannett laid off people its New Jersey hyperlocal sites died with the layoffs.
The problems, however, seem to have been that the hyperlocal reporters had to file for the website and the Gannett newspaper, with no local advertising support from the company to generate revenue. See the story at http://bit.ly/jI2Tp7
Jack Shafer, the media critic at Slate, wrote two columns about hyperlocals–columns I missed before the holiday weekend. In the first, Shafer, who does a superb job at covering the media, argues that people tend to use social media to talk about local news. He sees interests as more important than geography. Therefore, he dismisses AOL’s Patch, for example, as a costly exercise in futility. See the first story at http://slate.me/iPUujb
Shafer took some body shots from those who run successful hyperlocal sites, so he ran a second column at http://slate.me/mAO0ID, which includes comments from critics of the first column.
I run a hyperlocal site at philadelphianeighborhoods.com At the moment, I have the luxury of not having to worry about making money because students are the reporters. Tuition and lab fees pay the bills.
With dwindling state budgets, however, I expect that there will be a discussion of how to make more money from the site, which is relatively successful small site with about 800 unique users and 1,500 page views per day since we seriously launched the site two and one-half years ago.
I believe that people want information about their neighborhoods AND their interests. Facebook also tends to isolate many of us with our friends wherever they may be throughout the world without any public sphere to discuss the issues of our neighborhoods. I think that hyperlocal can deal with local issues and interesting people nearby without bogging down into village council meetings and other boring stuff.