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“Localization” On The Web: Just Not Here Yet.

“Hyperlocal” – are we there yet? In a NY Times article of April 12th, some “locally-focused” web services such as EveryBlock and Outside.in are presented. There’s a number of “localised” mobile notification services and some varied attempts at localized search, including GenieKnows. Twitter is starting to have create some “localized” impact. But are we there yet? When will we be there? Not anytime soon.

Many of the biggest issues I see for “localism” or “localization” remain pretty much the same as it was 10 years ago – Web access, cost of entry, ubiquity and content loading. While these have become much better, they’re still not quite there. Those that are, remain very much “local”, such as LocalBlock which serves but 11 cities and then only in the U.S., Outside in claims to serve over 11,000 cities, but remains U.S.-centric and is still not massively popular. There is citizen journalism, but even this remains fragmented, unreliable and often is highly biased.
One of the more popular forms of localism is event information. There are a number of mobile apps and Web-based apps for local event listing, from Waldii to EventBrite to EventBox and…yes, far too many.
But the biggest issues I see are ubiquitous access, how these services are accessed and how the cost of content gathering/editing/analysis is covered. This is where a serious opportunity resides for newspapers. Some have started to leverage this, but for the most part, newspapers are still fighting the inevitable. The Guardian’s April fools joke created a short spout of furor, yet they could be on to something.
A cold fact remains that not everyone is connected to the Web yet. In fact, the lower income demographic is at a serious disadvantage here. They can barely afford to have a phone, let alone pay a monthly fee to access the Web, plus they must find the means to buy a computer. Even an experiment by the Wall Street Journal in an affluent community, well connected to the Web was a disappointment.
While “hyperlocalisation” is a goal to work towards, the current executions remain fragmented and have yet to prove a viable business model – and “cobbling together” a bunch of choices is not the answer for true success. What may become opportunities here is Facebook or NetLog as Social Network tools. Another approach might be to more deeply understand how people share news, what they trust and what actions they might take. The future of hyperlocalism may rest in “news” becoming more active than passive.

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