How Should Hyperlocals View Social Networks?

April 29, 2016

Hyperlocals and Social Networks

There has been significant debate regarding the future of journalism relative to the disruption from social networks. An interview with Jeff Jarvis where he argues that publishing is not dying and that publishers need to learn how to work with social networks interested me, and I’d like to share some worthy notes with you:

  • “We can no longer have the hubris to think or assume that people will come to us as a destination” – I agree with this if you are a national or global publisher that is writing news for a large audience. Those publishers have been disrupted the most, because they used to have consumers attention nearly universally, and now they have lost it to Facebook, Twitter and others. I wholeheartedly disagree with this statement when it comes to hyperlocal publishers. While these publishers tend to lack the technology that allows them to be destinations, there is still a massive need for hyperlocal destinations for the people that live or travel to that area. In fact, this is an untapped area of disruption to address a problem that Google, Facebook and others have not been able to figure out.

  • “Facebook’s first goal is to connect people and keep them entertained, not informed” – this statement is really interesting and timely given the recent discussion of a drop in engagement on Facebook. We have become an entertainment society, and that won’t stop. However, what entertains people constantly changes. But somebody that can inform well will get user’s loyalty. Again, perhaps not for global publishers, but for hyperlocal publishers, the name of the game is consistent and valuable content – not viral content. That product stands the test of time and will grow steadily over time.

  • “In order to feed our mass media volume based business model, we have shown in our history of trying to manipulate people through Search Engine Optimization, cat videos and clickbait headlines, so we are hardly blameless” – As before, these manipulations tend to be done by global publishers. At the hyperlocal level, the real focus is on things going on in that community and “near me” searches. If hyperlocals focus on these areas, they have (in aggregate) content that nobody else does. And isn’t that the main goal? If you provide something valuable to people that they can’t get anyplace else, you will get your fair share of customers and revenue. The problem with global publishers is that they can’t provide enough consistent value, every day, to get conversations started on their platform vs. the Facebook’s and Google’s. But hyperlocal publishers can (and should) focus on content and conversations that are uniquely theirs.

There is tremendous value for hyperlocal publishers to market themselves where their readers are – and that includes social networks like Facebook. But they should also be laser focused on making sure they have ways to engage their readers on their own site too – they have all the content necessary to do so, and now they have tech as well. That combination can be powerful and sustainable.

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