The Road to Hyper-Local News Holds A Lot Of Potholes
Too much hyper-local news? Or too little real stuff? Maybe someone hasn't figured out the formula yet?
NBC has thrown up its hands, stopping its hyper-local niche web news service, EveryBlock.com, a service of NBCNews.com. Poised to offer neighborhood news, EveryBlock was looked at as a way to drill down into news that bigger city-wide newspapers or local TV stations couldn't -- or wouldn't -- cover.
AOL's Patch services play in this same arena. Some of these services might look to have some TV/video content, but mostly they contain text.
The big issue for any of these services is how to glean new local advertising dollars.
In some ways, this is the same situation with hyper-local TV platforms that run on digital TV spectrum. But those digital signals are focused on broad-based easy-to-obtain TV programming content -- especially reruns, niche Hispanic programming, movies and other TV/video. This can generally be viewed as a safer bet, especially when it comes to getting national or local advertising.
The rub is that local TV news can cost lots of money for editors and for reporters on the ground. The upside for TV stations is that, if moderately successful, these local TV news operations can bring in the lion's share of their local TV advertising dollars.
Local TV executives had somewhat more aggressive plans when the push for hyper-local news – whether via digital signals or Internet-delivered -- took off a couple of years ago. They wanted little neighborhood TV bureaus to pop up, supported by local advertisers that in the past couldn't afford to advertise on local TV news programming.
Many Internet-delivered hyper-local sites focus on modest neighborhood information such as government services.
AOL's Patch may have figured out a different formula than NBC because it says in 2012 it pulled in $40 million -- from some 17 million users across the country via different localized Patch operations. In 2014, Patch is estimated to become profitable, which would be somewhat of a quiet success.
What's the key? One report says "although there are paid positions (editors and sales managers, apparently), other contributors do it for the love of the community." In other words, free content.
Perhaps that's something bigger, more professional NBC may be missing -- or something Patch will be lacking going forward.