Monday, April 5, 2010

Thing 54. Hyperlocal Sites

In this thing, we’re exploring the not-so-new idea known now as hyperlocal websites. “Not-so-new” in the sense that what many of these sites are doing is providing that local (town, city, neighborhood, or even block) information source that many small town daily or weekly newspapers have always provided. As many of these newspapers are beginning to disappear and larger newspapers are dropping most local coverage, this type of local news coverage is moving to the web. The field of companies offering this service is growing and have become desirable to some larger media companies such as MSNBC, AOL, and so on. To give you a sense of the variety of sites out there, let’s take a look at a couple of sites: EveryBlock and Patch.

EveryBlock, owned by msnbc, takes a granular approach to reporting local news. Rather than just reporting news for entire city, say New York City, they offer news feeds for every block in 16 cities, which as of today includes:
By entering a street address or neighborhood name, you can find news coverage, public records, and other content that is either from that area or in the same geographic area.  EveryBlock states that it is trying to answer the question, “What’s happening in my neighborhood?” The company does the gathering of this information and presents it to the end user. EveryBlock focuses on four categories of local news:
  • Civic information – defined as public records information, including permits, crimes, restaurant inspections, etc. EveryBlock has established relationships with local governments to make this information more readily available.
  • News articles and blog entries – defined as information from major newspapers, local TV and radio, community weeklies, local blogs, and other local publications. EveryBlock then does the work of geographically classifying these articles.
  • Fun – defined as coming from diverse places on the web, such as Flickr, Yelp, Craigslist and so on.
  • Announcements – defined as news, classifieds, and upcoming events. This category even allows for the posting of announcements.
Creating an EveryBlock account
Each EveryBlock site allows users to register for “extra features.” To register, go to any of the 16 sites and click on Register in the upper right corner and follow these steps:

  1. Type in your email address. A message will be sent to your email to verify that the email address you entered was indeed valid.  Click on the link in your email and go to step
  2. Set a password. Type in a password for your account (retype it for security purposes) and Voila! You’ve created an account.
Once you’ve created an account, you can set your preferences to what types of information you want to see on your page, what neighborhood(s) you’d like to be emailed about or would like to have set up as a saved place, and post announcements, alerts, etc. There is also an iPhone app that can be downloaded as well so that you can take your news on the go.
    Patch is a site that really does seem to take that small-town newspaper idea and run with it. Rather than focusing on a block or neighborhood in a city like EveryBlock, Patch focuses on an entire small town or city. Currently, Patch has cities in 5 states (California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York) and as of today, 44 towns and cities. 
    Each page has the same basic layout, which includes sections such as news, announcements, events, and a section called essential which includes things like videos, calls for volunteers, and listings for local organizations. Here is an example of a Patch site for Livingston, NJ.

    Other sites of hyperlocal sites of interest:
    Will we soon rely on these hyperlocal sites to get all our news and information? Time will tell!

    By Michael Scott, Assistant Director, SELCO/SELS
    Newspaper Image: A Stack of Newspapers. DRB62 Photostream

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