Letter from Phil – issue 397

Creating Hyperlocal Sites

Have you considered setting up a truly local publishing venture? Depending on where you live, you could find yourself with a roaring success on your hands.

A couple of weeks ago the UK’s Sunday Times ran a feature story in the small business section about two men in a small district of north London publishing a hyper-local blog called the Kentish Towner. A bit of online research showed that they’ve had some good publicity in other newspapers too, with especially good coverage in The Guardian.

Stephen Emms one of the co-owners says “Our daily website, The Kentishtowner, is not a hobby. It’s a genuinely new model, combining good writing with a rising monthly audience and revenue.”

They claim a regular audience of around 20,000 regular readers with 40,000 page views and over 3000 twitter followers.

Going by these figures and the advertising on the site it’s obviously a thriving (and low-cost) business model. A quick look around the site showed that some of the content is written by local business owners who then pay for it to be used. In other words a subtle form of advertising. But they’ve also got 21 writers contributing to the site. Some of these people freelance for big time media like The Guardian and The Sunday Times. The two owners are also ex-journo’s.

Anyhow, I’m writing about this WordPress blog for two reasons.

1. When you live in the right place (a thriving suburb or town) it’s obviously a business model that works, and it’s worked for a long time.

If you want to try and copy the success of The Kentish Towner, I suggest you gather a small team with complimentary skills because it’s far too big a job to attempt solo. Like the Kentish Towner you should probably stay away from news stories, leaving that to the local newspaper. Instead concentrate on lifestyle and entertainment, doing reviews of cafes and markets, etc.

If the idea of creating and running this type of hyper local site appeals to you, read this article from The Guardian (UK). It’s written by Stephen, from The Kentish Towner, and explains the way they work.


2. The main reason I’m writing this piece is to once again stress to you the importance of improving the quality of the content you produce online.

Time and time again I’ve said that, with the old printed media being in an ever faster state of decline, highly skilled journalists are turning to the web and competing with you. These journalists have got little choice because printed publications are (on the whole) losing money hand over fist, and the two things they appear to be doing are slashing overheads and pinning their future on digital.

This means thousands of people are being made redundant, and with jobs in short supply a good number of them will be attempting to use their content creation skills online. Probably quite a few will start producing sites like the Kentish Towner. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s the model that will be most appealing to newly redundant journo’s.

Some, of course, will turn to writing and self-publishing ebooks for the Kindle and other devices, using their newspaper and magazine contacts to help them get reviewed. They’ll also be promoting the books with sites and blogs they write.

Others will take the affiliate route, and the well researched top quality content they can produce at speed will have the search engines falling in love with their sites.

This increased competition is bad news for you because these people can pump out high quality content very quickly.

I’m not being a doomsayer here, just a realist. Your advantages are that you already know a lot more about SEO and web business than most of these newcomers, but to compete in the near future you will need to seriously work on raising your content creation skill levels.

You can read more about creating and running hyper local sites – and see some great examples in this post (which wasn’t published as a newsletter)

creating hyper local sites in the blog post below this one