People often say that the Internet has “flattened” the world; eroding the geographic barriers that divide people across the world.
Generally speaking, chatting with someone in London from the New York office is more fast and convenient than stopping by a neighbor’s house down the block. Instant digital communications have of course fostered incredible communities all around the world.
And of course, business and advertising have been making it easier for those communities to get the goods and services they need. I still am amazed that, with a little help from Google translate, I can buy olive oil directly from a remote village in Spain while drinking my morning coffee.
But a new phenomenon is emerging: people are using the internet to connect with people and businesses down the street. Companies like eBay Now, Reachlocal and others are using digital and mobile technology to connect users with local businesses in new ways.
eBay Now, for instance, offers incredibly fast access to local goods. A quick perusal reveals that, if so inclined, I could have a new set of Blu-Ray’s from Target, audio equipment from Guitar Center, and a new wardrobe from Urban Outfitters at my doorstep in an hour.
It’s no surprise than that social networking giants like Facebook would want to partner with local media companies. And as any social media specialist knows, ad-targeting on Facebook can get your message to the customer across town as well as it can across the country.
And other great models are popping up. ClubLocal is a new service that lets people book handymen at pre-negotiated rates, both online and with a mobile app. Local Yokel, a media company that connects advertisers with hyperlocal blogs, recently raised over 2 million dollars.
Hyperlocal blogs that cover neighborhood specific news are just the latest iteration of this return to local. As the barrier to entry continues to decrease for professional-grade blogs, the internet is sure to see a rise in these hyperlocal media outlets. If the current trend of urban growth continues, cities are sure to bigger and denser. More people in a small areas means more news and opportunities for business. And more news and business means that hyperlocal news and advertising will only grow.
The turn to local, and hyperlocal, certainly isn’t going to reverse, or even compete, with the trend of creating global communities of people from across the world. But it will pose some interesting challenges for marketers. For one, local business and advertising needs to be personable to connect with consumers. Already, local media outlets are rife with personalities that we love or hate. Food and movie critics in our local papers, radio personalities and our nightly news anchors shape how we feel about events, media and businesses. Soon, we hope, we can add “neighborhood blogger” to that list.
Radio has been, and will continue to be, the pre-eminent tool for connecting with local audiences. At CBS Radio, we’ve been doing it for years and we hope to be doing it for many more.