April 13, 2011: Groupon has surprised many in the past couple of years, coming out of nowhere with a simple idea to become first a $6 billion acquisition target and then potential $25 billion IPO (if it ever pulls the trigger). Foursquare was once just a schoolyard game, but now it has a potential $1 billion valuation as a market-leading innovator in “check-in” markets. And the Patch.com network of sites was born after AOL’s now-CEO Tim Armstrong perceived a dearth of local news in his Connecticut town — it’s now in over 800 towns and neighborhoods around the country.
Fourteen years ago, when The Industry Standard (where one of us cut our teeth) was being formed, a similar dynamic was taking place — a new group of online companies was emerging with big ideas about how new technologies would impact consumer behavior. Lots of VC money was being thrown at these efforts, even while they searched for sustainable business models. Many of those companies failed, but some have emerged over the past decade as game-changing global giants that permeate our daily lives in countless ways.
We see something similar happening now when it comes to the “industry” we’re shorthanding as “hyperlocal.” This is the intersection between location-centric services like Foursquare, Gowalla and Facebook Places; locally-targeted daily deals efforts like Groupon, LivingSocial and Yipit; and more traditional “hyperlocal” news and information sites and networks like Patch.com, Everyblock, Baristanet and the East Village Local. These are all marked by big new ideas, shifting consumer behavior, and technology-enabled innovation — and a similar push of venture funding is enabling serious projects that promise to build a new world of local advertising and commerce.
There are signs the shift is well underway. Google reports that one in every five Internet searches focuses on local places and topics; one in three over mobile devices. And according to a report by JiWire, 57% of consumers are more likely to engage with an ad if it is relevant to their location. No wonder these new services are piling on. There’s a frenzy, and it is likely driving the growth in local digital ad revenue, which BIA/Kelsey forecasts will nearly double to $42.5 billion by 2015, from $21.7 billion last year.
We aim to be a central resource for ideas about sustainable business models for the hyperlocal news, information and advertising efforts. We will celebrate those who are making it happen — whether at a sexy startup, an old-school media or advertising company or a blog with a passionate scope no bigger than a few-block radius — and we will provide case studies and wisdom from those on the front lines.
In fact, it’s a question that has already been put to us. As we were working behind the scenes to build the site, we began participating in the Twitterverse, connecting with and learning about the range of individuals and companies who live and breathe hyperlocal. Not long before launch, this tweet came through from @westseattleblog: “hmm will @streetfightmag actually be relevant to our business or just another focus on big corp (or tech-heavy) efforts to be #hyperlocal.”
No doubt others will ask as well as they review our site and our Twitter feed, which are in fact more heavily weighted toward the companies grabbing the headlines across the tech and media landscape right now. And here’s our answer: We intend to cover the breadth of the industry as best we can, and we’d love to hear from all corners of the market to help us do so. If you’ve got questions, comments, or ideas about the site, please email co-founders Laura Rich and David Hirschman.
So what is Street Fight, and what can you expect from us?
At first, we will be primarily a news analysis site with emphasis on the individuals and personalities of the industry. We’ll expand to offer essential, proprietary research on this rapidly evolving field. We’ll also launch events, to bring together individuals working in this area in an effort to help foster idea exchange and collaboration. And, in our aim to be a central resource, we’ll soon bring you a job listings section.
Take a look around, poke at the site, and let us know what you think. Here’s a little guide:
• Street Fight Daily – Essential news of the day published on the site and directly to your inbox (sign up for the newsletter here)
• Interviews – Hear directly from the leaders in hyperlocal in our up-close Q&As, as well as local business owners
• Commentary – Views and guest posts from staff and industry voices to give shape to news developments and ideas
• Street Smart Moves – The single-best deal, assertion, investment or other strategy, each week
We are thrilled to report that we recently teamed up with Rick Robinson, a founder of AOL Digital City and veteran of the hyperlocal/location-centric space, to absorb the content from his site, Locl.ly, into Street Fight and add Rick as an adviser and frequent contributor. You’ll find Locl.ly content sprinkled throughout the site and you can read Rick’s column, “Turf Talk,” in the Commentary section. Look for a new column from him every Wednesday. Another regular columnist, journalist Alex Salkever, will analyze the interplay between hyperlocal and our daily lives in the weekly “Personal Fight.”
Two other entrepreneurs steeped in media and startups have also assisted in our launch as advisers, Larry Kramer and Jonathan Weber. Larry Kramer is the founder of Marketwatch, a pioneer in financial news sites that was acquired by CBS and went public at a $150 million valuation in 1998 and was later sold to Dow Jones for $528 million. Jonathan Weber was the editor in chief of The Industry Standard, founded the Rocky Mountain news website NewWest and is the editor in chief of The Bay Citizen. Each has given us invaluable time and input on Street Fight.
One last note: we’re just incredibly excited about the ideas and efforts of the people working in hyperlocal who are pushing forward and experimenting with ways to make it a long-lasting, sustainable business. We celebrate you and look forward to writing this story together.
– The Founders