Posts Tagged 'blogging'

Hyperlocal, anyone?

This is a minor appendix to my former post. It’s intended as a bulletin board over Danish hyperlocal blogs (please note that I decide what to count as hyperlocal and that I’ve already disqualified AOK).

I’ll update it when I find something to post. So far, I’ve found these:

Hyperlocal news

In connection with familiar words like ‘blog’, ‘news’, and ‘content’, the term hyperlocal has been a buzzword, at least since the launch of the hyperlocal content network Outside.in in 2006. We’ll get back to Outside.in and why I think it’s so important, but I’ll have to set some terminology straight first:

Hyperlocal means ‘over-local’; it refers to information not only about a specific location (that would just be plain old ‘local’ information) but implies a closer affiliation with the place, typically in terms of residence or some degree of familiarity. The rationale behind it is this: When people blog about the place they live, it attracts people who see themselves as connected to the same place. Very often, good old community feeling lies at the heart of it all.

Buzz rarely originates directly from community feeling; it’s more of a down-to-earth business kinda thing, and in order to turn volatile notions as community feeling into something tangible, the idea has to translate into a business model of sorts. Around 2005, with the rise of blogging in general and neighborhood blogs like Gothamist in particular, the aggregate amount of high-quality local content had become so extensive that it was in fact starting to look like an alternative to the news coverage of mainstream local media.

In this situation, what you need to make it a real alternative, is an aggregator that lets you gather the content you want and source it to users who will be able search and browse it. While millions of readers certainly is more than your average blogger could hope for, it’s what newspapers like New York Post crucially needs, and for that they’re more than willing to pay.

In briefly sketching the hyperlocal business model, I’ll throw in a few more buzzwords (hint: do watch out for the italics!):

Premise 1: Let there be given a lot of hyperlocal content on the web

Premise 2: Let there be given a news network that will let you

  • find and collect stuff, you want to use (that’s called aggregation),
  • select what you see fit to publish (that’s curation, but if you’re bluffing, please avoid confusing curation with ‘editorial work’) and
  • publish it to your own site

Consequence: Receive lots of traffic and ad-revenue.

While refraining from adding a Quod erat demonstrandum to the argument, there’s evidence that the model is working: New York Post (here’s a page for the Flatiron District) and CNN have teamed up with Outside.in, AOL acquired Patch, and MSNBC bought EveryBlock.

Outside.in is important, because it represents a genuine intersection of blogosphere and traditional media; it’s not just another newspaper letting a few reporters do some trendy blogging. What comes to mind is that this is in fact the most extensive local news coverage I have seen: Not only is there more content, the news are also much more granular.

If you’re interested in the really big picture, you’ll be sure to get it in Outside.in co-founder Steven Berlin Johnson’s excellent talk at SXSW 2009. As a little aside, I’ll be posting a little companion piece with a (hopefully growing) list of Danish hyperlocal blogs.

Mutations of evolution

150 years after Charles Darwin published On the Origin of Species, the theory of evolution has proven such a fruitful concept that the terms ‘evolution’ and ‘Darwinian’ have become commonplace. Today it’s simply a model for explaining change, and judging from its many different mutations, it’s tempting to suggest some kind of evolution of the theory itself.

Darwin’s theory of evolution assumed that certain heritable traits, namely those that make the survival and successful reproduction of an organism easier, become more common in a population over the generations. It was this mechanism, Darwin referred to as natural selection, and which he described elaborately.

Back in school I used to learn about Darwinian evolution as something which has sort of warped itself to different developing needs, without conscious intervention, and that evolution certainly wasn’t the same as progress – which was what the followers of Herbert Spencer thought. But it seems to me that it’s the Spencerian, or ‘Socialdarwinian’, form of evolution (“survival of the fittest”) most people today think of when they hear the word. A couple of examples from the last few months; you have the evolution of:
  • Architectural Ideas – According to Danish architect Bjarke Ingels, some architectural ideas prove more sustainable than others. Why? Because people select the best ideas. (Here, by the way, you’ll also find the interesting contrast: evolution vs. revolution, which is also a theme here and here)
  • Blogging – Om Malik says blogs need to evolve and be more social. Why? Otherwise they will not survive the competition with social networking services like Facebook and Twitter.
This was evolution as progress. But then there’s Niall Ferguson. His take on the evolution of financial theory is more refined, and this clip is definitely worth watching. Worth a read, on the other hand, is his book The Ascent of Money. Here he offers six features shared by the financial world and evolutionary systems. I quote:
  1. ‘Genes’, in the sense that certain business practices perform the same role as genes in biology, allowing information to be stored in the ‘organizational memory’ and passed on from individual to individual or from firm to firm when a new firm is created.
  2. The potential for spontaneous mutation, usually referred to in the economic world as innovation and primarily, though by no means always, technical.
  3. Competition between individuals within a species for resources, with the outcomes in terms of longevity and proliferation determining which business practices persist.
  4. A mechanism for natural selection through the market allocation of capital and human resources and possibility of death in cases of under-performance, i.e. ‘differential survival’.
  5. Scope for speciation, sustaining biodiversity through the creation of wholly new species of financial institutions.
  6. Scope for extinction, with species dying out altogether.
Language can also be seen as an evolutionary system. No matter how much people intervene and try to restrict it, it still evolves in mysterious ways. I wonder what evolutionary features one could find there? En bien! Vive le sport!