In the latest guest post, Philip John takes a look at the much-discussed subject of hyperlocal websites coming together to secure strength in numbers…
First mentioned by Will Perrin as he began to blog about hyperlocal back in 2009, the Hyperlocal Alliance is something that has popped up in conversation at almost every unconference on the subject since.
What would an alliance of hyperlocal site owners look like, though? Here are five suggestions of what it could do…
Many people seem to struggle with the word hyperlocal. In my opinion this is largely down to how some sections of the media deal with the word, choosing large networks like Patch as the default go-to example of a hyperlocal site.
I tried to deal with those issues in a post for Wannabe Hacks last year and the comments were mostly positive. An Alliance could give us the platform to write a definition together that we can all get behind so that site owners, not the wider media, are setting the terms of reference.
We’ve all heard the horror stories about site owners chucked out or even arrested for trying to follow their passion. There are obviously more subtle examples of where hyperlocals face exclusion, too.
An Alliance therefore might look at ways in which it can represent the interests of hyperlocals, lobbying authorities and protecting members. For example, a legal fund might be a good start.
I’m not sure it’s much of an issue anymore but there has long been concern about the perception of hyperlocals. Sometimes brandished as just “ranty bloggers” it can be hard for a hyperlocal to build relationships and get past those misconceptions.
An agreed-upon code of conduct might help to address that. Some hyperlocals are ranty blogs of course so a code would have to be quite broad, or be made up of different codes for the varied types of site.
When site owners meet and chat many of the same conversations come up again and again. Each one goes through a similar learning process and that can often be a lonely and difficult experience.
By sharing experiences we learn from each other and an Alliance could really help to drive that forward on a much more solid basis than just the occasional meet up.
Having very low costs is one of the reasons we have so many hyperlocal sites. However, much of the resource many of us would like to have are too expensive. As a group we could have significantly more buying power to attain some of those resources.
This could mean more than just buying things, though. I mentioned earlier the idea of a legal fund – combining what little money we have could help fund some work into looking at the legal risks we face and what we can do to mitigate those.
These are all very tentative suggestions of what a Hyperlocal Alliance might do. Ultimately, the decision is down to those site owners who get involved and help shape it.
A few of us have started. We’ve created an online discussion forum where we’re talking about some of these issues. It’s private to encourage frank discussion and limited to hyperlocal site owners only.