Following similar launches for Chicago, New York, and Denver, Huffington Post launched its Los Angeles local site on Friday. With a parent site pulling in over 8 million unique hits per day over according to Compete.com, nearly 1 million more than local news site LATimes.com, and the addition of celebrities like Drew Barrymore, Larry David, and LA mayor Antonio Villagaroisa to their list of bloggers, HuffPoLA may be a force to reckon with for LATimes and other hyperlocal news sites vying for ad dollars.
While other news and culture-focused sites like LA Weekly and LAist have yet to hit the 7-figure mark in terms of traffic and may not be seen as a threat to the bigger fish, as the hyperlocal news space becomes bloated with competition, the question may be less about how many visit a site regularly and more about how well those visits can be monetized.
The rise of hyperlocal news and the monetization challenge
The move towards city-centric news that doesn’t rely on traditional reporters has been ongoing for some time. Local online news sites are cropping up left and right and major online portals are trying to capitalize on the hyperlocal market while print publications continue to close their doors.
However, despite what seems to be a growing trend, hyperlocal sites are not without their challenges. While hyperlocal sites provide advertisers with clear geographic and broad demographic targeting, thus making it easy to tailor one’s strategy and messaging to needs specific to cities, states, and towns, the audience for hyperlocal sites is naturally limited, giving advertisers more precision but less reach.
Still, the hyperlocal ad market is relatively untapped; according to an article in The New York Times, the Kelsey Group, a research firm that studies local media and advertising, has found many small businesses have yet to place an ad online and expects the local ad market to bring in $32 billion dollars by 2013.
Personally, I find hyperlocal news sites practical. I consult LAist.com regularly for updates on what’s going on in my neighborhood and the city at large and I view Everyblock.com’s feed from my iGoogle homepage to stay abreast of crimes and other news happening close to home. Visiting these sites feels like a valuable use of time; the content is relevant, and there is nothing distracting me from finding the news I want to read. Whether sites like these stick around depends on a variety of factors – how well ads perform and whether hyperlocal sites can sustain themselves once they can no longer rely on print and TV outlets for news – and I hope they will. I’m also looking forward to some HuffPo LA blogs from Drew Barrymore and Larry David!
What do you think of the hyperlocal trend? Are sites like LAist.com more likely to thrive or are bigger fish like HuffPo likely to have more success integrating local pages into their existing sites? Post your thoughts below!