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TJ Beitelman

I'm interested in (and personally invested in) the idea of the hyperlocal in general (new urbanism, slow food, etc) and hyperlocal media in particular. As a blogger and aspiring voice (indeed, aren't we all) I can almost literally feel the opportunity.

But I'm wondering about this statement from Mark Josephson's post:

"At the same time there is an explosion of content at the hyperlocal level. There are great individual efforts like Chicagotalks.org, Buffalo Watch, All Things Richmond, Ashvegas, A is For Atlanta and C-Ville Blog. These sites need more traffic and more revenue."

Yeah. Word. (As I think the kids used to say way back in the 20th Century.) This sort of content is everywhere -- and in fact, good versions of it do exist. I'm somebody who'd like to put myself in that latter category (though not all of my content is hyperlocal, it's migrating in that direction).

I guess my question is why do hyperlocal sites struggle for traffic now? Aggregators like outside.in are intended to help weed out the white noise, I know, but I wonder if people are really willing to pay for hyperlocal content primarily for the sake of its hyperlocality. I'm pretty sure you guys are onto something with this concept, and you've no doubt got white papers and spreadsheets that say they will.

Still, to use a tired truism: content is king. I think it's not what but how. Not just that there IS content, but what kind of content is it. Voice is really, really important. Especially with the hyperlocal. What people want is to identify with a persona (or, in some cases, to react against a persona they don't identify with). The attraction of hyperlocal lies there. There's a built in bond, with place as a connector. But if the words aren't compelling in form -- i.e., they don't create a specific voice/persona that people are drawn to -- it's not going to catch on.

The analogy is to a slow food eatery that only uses local ingredients. That's all well and good, but it still has to taste good.

I guess what I'm saying is that much of the hyperlocal content I encounter is bland. Outside.in or no, that's a fundamental concern that publishers -- large, small, hyperlocal or otherwise -- will always have to contend with.

Rule #1: Make it interesting. Everything flows from that source.

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The analogy is to a slow food eatery that only uses local ingredients. That's all well and good, but it still has to taste good.

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are you going to do that in other language and for cities around the world ??

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My Photo
I'm a father of three boys, husband of one wife, and author of nine books, host of one television series, and co-founder of three web sites. We split our time between Brooklyn, NY and Marin County, CA. Personal correspondence should go to sbeej68 at gmail dot com. If you're interested in having me speak at an event, drop a line to Wesley Neff at the Leigh Bureau (WesN at Leighbureau dot com.)

My Books

  • Steven Johnson: How We Got to Now: Six Innovations That Made the Modern World

    Steven Johnson: How We Got to Now: Six Innovations That Made the Modern World
    A history of innovation accompanied by a 6-part TV series on PBS and the BBC, this was the first of my books to crack the top 5 on the NY Times bestseller list. Appropriately for a book that celebrates diverse networks, this was the most collaborative of any of my books. (Available from IndieBound here.)

  • Steven Johnson: Future Perfect: The Case For Progress In A Networked Age

    Steven Johnson: Future Perfect: The Case For Progress In A Networked Age
    My first book-length attempt to organize my writings about emergence and networks into something resembling a political philosophy, which I called Peer Progressivism. (Available from IndieBound here.)

  • : Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation

    Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation
    An exploration of environments that lead to breakthrough innovation, in science, technology, business, and the arts. I conceived it as the closing book in a trilogy on innovative thinking, after Ghost Map and Invention. But in a way, it completes an investigation that runs through all the books, and laid the groundwork for How We Got To Now. (Available from IndieBound here.)

  • : The Invention of Air

    The Invention of Air
    The story of the British radical chemist Joseph Priestley, who ended up having a Zelig-like role in the American Revolution. My version of a founding fathers book, and a reminder that most of the Enlightenment was driven by open source ideals. (Available from IndieBound here.)

  • : The Ghost Map

    The Ghost Map
    The story of a terrifying outbreak of cholera in 1854 London 1854 that ended up changing the world. An idea book wrapped around a page-turner. I like to think of it as a sequel to Emergence if Emergence had been a disease thriller. You can see a trailer for the book here. (Available from IndieBound here.)

  • : Everything Bad Is Good for You: How Today's Popular Culture Is Actually Making Us Smarter

    Everything Bad Is Good for You: How Today's Popular Culture Is Actually Making Us Smarter
    The title says it all. This one sparked a slightly insane international conversation about the state of pop culture -- and particularly games. There were more than a few dissenters, but the response was more positive than I had expected. And it got me on The Daily Show, which made it all worthwhile. (Available from IndieBound here.)

  • : Mind Wide Open : Your Brain and the Neuroscience of Everyday Life

    Mind Wide Open : Your Brain and the Neuroscience of Everyday Life
    My first best-seller, and the only book I've written in which I appear as a recurring character, subjecting myself to a battery of humiliating brain scans. The last chapter on Freud and the neuroscientific model of the mind is one of my personal favorites. (Available from IndieBound here.)

  • : Emergence: The Connected Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities, and Software

    Emergence: The Connected Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities, and Software
    The story of bottom-up intelligence, from slime mold to Slashdot. Most of my books sold more copies than this one, but Emergence has influenced the most eclectic mix of fields: political campaigns, web business models, urban planning, the war on terror. (Available from IndieBound here.)

  • : Interface Culture : How New Technology Transforms the Way We Create and Communicate

    Interface Culture : How New Technology Transforms the Way We Create and Communicate
    My first. The book I wrote instead of finishing my dissertation, predicting the growing cultural significance of interface and information design. Still relevant, I think. But I haven't read it in a while, so who knows what's in there! (Available from IndieBound here.)

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