08 July 2009

Five Lessons From Hyperlocal Site ‘Death’

The managing editor of a defunct hyperlocal news site is giving others advice on how to avoid a similar fate.

Dr Michelle Ferrier was one of the key figures behind MyTopiaCafe.com, a community news website from the Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Beset by problems during its two-year existence, the site closed last week and Dr Ferrier has now passed on the benefit of her hyperlocal experience via Poynter Online.

Here are the five factors that she believes contributed to the site’s demise, and the lessons that can be learned from each:

1 – Lack of Tech Support

“We did not have access to the video technologies, programmers and support on the content and technology sides that could have helped demonstrate the functions we were having our users adopt.”

The Lesson:

“Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Build a team that includes the content folks and the technologists.”

2 – Size Matters

“The borrowed model was too big for a hyperlocal community.”

The Lesson:

“Don't try to chew more than you can swallow. Start operations in smaller geographic footprints or niches and grow the operations and technological capabilities as you gain revenue.”

3 – The Long Haul

Dr Ferrier writes that “...reaching that tipping point of audience and user contributions takes time and evangelising and training and people, not just technology”.

The Lesson:

“Consider the project an experiment in technologies and in developing new capabilities - not an immediate cash cow.”

4 – Learn to sell Online

“The newspaper advertising management didn’t know how to sell this ‘online community thing’ as a part of the media mix without cannibalising its cash cow.”

The Lesson:

“If you don’t have a sales force that knows how to sell your product, find them or train them - quickly.”

5 – Work With Print

“We kept delaying the rollout of a print component and struggled to integrate the content into existing print products.

“So the site had limited exposure in existing publications.”

The Lesson:

“Develop multiple revenue streams out of the box - both online and in print.

“Don’t knock what looks like chump change on an ordinary day. These are not ordinary times.”

Read the full post on Poynter Online.

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At 8/7/09 8:38 pm, Anonymous Pat said...

Great advice. I'm not sure I'm convinced on #5 (printing on-line content), but it does help stretch the brain. Thank you for sharing your learnings, we will take them into account as we grow WikiCity.


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