What’s missing from sites focused on a city? Community organizers. It’s the same leadership dilemma facing any organization, whether physical or virtual. Hyperlocal sites need to be driven and organized by hubs and influencers of the local community, and these hubs need to feel invested and committed to their “city site”.
Hyperlocal “news” sites like Outside.In and Topix automatically pull feeds from local publishers to re-create a local newspaper. Although there are sporadic comments to articles, there is little community engagement. CitySearch and Yahoo! Local serve as online Yellow Pages.
Engaging hyperlocal sites need “word of mouth”
In many cities, the best hyperlocal sites are developed by somebody, some company or group in the community. In Santa Barbara, Edhat.com, developed by a local software company, has distinguished itself in providing compelling local content.
Hyperlocal social networks a la Ning generally don’t gain traction (show me one that does) because it takes too long for anybody to invest the time to set up a complete profile. Twitter makes hyperlocal communication easy because it can serve as a proxy social network for a local community that “follows” each other. There’s no login/profile setup requirement, just tweet.
Breaking News City sites that aggregate local Twitter feeds across various categories are being developed in cities across the country by individuals, and groups like chambers of commerces, who are hubs of their communities. They invest their time to create a useful hyperlocal community site by providing local Twitterers a venue to gain exposure in the community. There’s energy in facilitating the community conversation that “national” sites like Topix and CitySearch don’t have.
Example Breaking News City sites: