If you're following the news about the news, you've probably heard that many media companies are hoping to find successful niches in so-called hyperlocal coverage -- obsessive Web-based coverage of particular towns or even neighborhoods.
Newsweek just ran a long article about this and suggests some big-money players are serious about competing with neighborhood bloggers:
As humble as it sounds, that coverage is making three New Jersey towns--Maplewood, South Orange, and Millburn (including its hamlet Short Hills)--a hotbed for cutting-edge ventures in hyper-local journalism. At last count, 10 different Web sites were focusing on the three communities--including the newly launched blogs Patch.com, funded by AOL; TheLocal, a New York Times-owned site; and Maplewoodian.com, run part-time by a Maplewood resident. Bloggers and media companies were drawn in part by the areas' affluent demographics and quaint, commercially vibrant downtowns filled with potential advertisers.
And New Jersey is merely a launchpad for the hyperlocal upstarts. The Times, for example, has pondered the idea of franchising TheLocal to various communities. Patch.com already is swiftly expanding. At stake is the $100 billion market for local advertising, typically extracted from merchants such as dry cleaners and pizza parlors. Even as the overall ad market has declined during the recession, forecasters at Borrell Associates estimate local online ad spending will rise from about $13 billion in 2008 to $14 billion in 2009. In New Jersey, the invasion of journo-bloggers has amazed local officials. "We've gone from being sleepy little news towns to being boomtowns," says Maplewood Mayor Victor DeLuca.