As per my last post, Going Big but Staying Local, I am finding the local content opportunity very interesting. I’ve got a week or so away from the office so I’m diving deep and being inspired in many different directions.
It is not often that an entire mass media channel is declining (i.e. print) and the entire industry that goes along with it is being re-worked. The rules of the content game are being re-written each day now and there are very few big publishers who have an offline newspaper or magazine that figured out how to sustain themselves. If you have not read Mark Cuban’s post to Rupert Murdoch, take 5 minutes and read it now.
Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and MySpace have created a platform that has a ton of content that’s been added by individuals and in some instances, businesses. The content that has been uploaded by individuals through these platforms has been done without money exchanging hands, so essentially these platforms have been built by the people.
I think each of these platforms (and others) have opportunities to move into the local content area. Afterall, their content is relatively local. Could Facebook for instance, be the next New York 1 (local channel)? I’d argue yes.
I’m not going to focus on the broad/general consumer local opportunity as other people are going to find that more interesting, butI’m going to write about the B2B and Real-Estate Opps below.
The B2B Play
AOL is among several large online media firms looking for the local holy grail. Companies like Yahoo, Citysearch owner IAC, Yelp, and online newspaper publishers like Gannett are all competing to find the right mix of local news and information, community and social features, and ad opportunities to satisfy consumers and attract national and small business advertisers. Small local startups are also fighting to score local ad dollars.
If I was going to attack the local content game, I’d do it a bit different than create an uber network, because when you do that, it’s all about network effects. Investors hate investing in businesses that have network effects (i.e. eBay) because of the low chances of picking the right company.
What I would do is focus on helping businesses get online through removing as much friction as possible. The Local Life has created a network of websites across the Northeast (and URLs to open more across the USA) that rank high in search engines for relevant keywords and has been rolling out advertising packages to their clients (businesses) that help them quantify the traffic that The Local Life is sending to them. The majority of business owners are skeptical anytime someone approaches them for advertising, but when you can quantify the leads to them, the skepticism becomes interest and curiousity and the relationship grows more often than not.
From what I’ve seen from The Local Life, these guys are starting to pick up traction and have a real business. They have the opportunity to expand into many markets quickly with enough growth capital, they can create a bottoms-up local network for small to medium sized businesses (such as restaurants, inns, hotels, etc) who want to locally advertise online.
Their secret sauce? A market model that can deploy markets both efficiently and quickly. Scaleable.
The Real Estate Play
I think there is a huge opportunity for creating a discovery engine for real-estate. The engine can exist online or in a mobile capacity, but searching for real estate is broken IMHO. Most people (including me) do not know where exactly they want to live. Most people have no idea how much space they need. Most people don’t know the differences of Northern vs. Southern Westchester. However, the current real-estate model assumes you already do and there really is no discovery part of the equation.
If I want to research the 64 different towns/villages/cities in Northern/Southern Westchester and Fairfield County, the only real place to turn is Wikipedia. Real estate agents can only say so much due to their code of conduct, and a review by a family member can only go so far (remember the last restaurant recommendation that your aunt made? yes, exactly). Every single real estate website automatically assumes you know where you want to rent/buy and provides you information in that capacity.
Providing local real estate content for discovery can really be strong here. Video, text, and visual content as well, as, interactive quizes/tests can help a prospective home buyer/renter figure out where to live. Closing the loop here from discovery to purchase is where the big opportunity is and as stated in a previous blog post, I’m trying to figure that out.
This applies to people in the market to rent/buy homes, condos, townhomes, and apartments, but also, vacation rentals.