I think I’ll forego predictions I would have made based on iterations that got us to this point in 2011. I’d rather take a broader view with some thoughts that are as much attached to the local past as to the future.
Infusion: Expect to see every interface of utility (and some entertainment) to be injected with a “local intelligence stream,” possibly from an aggregate of the deals providers, local events providers, ultra-local news providers, targeted local data guys and the like. This local stream will become an imperative wherever consumers interact with non-human interfaces.
Ultra Local: You probably don’t recall but I’ve made reference to this before… (including in last year’s predictions) Local news will refocus on the small — very small. We’ll see neighbor news reports curated by an editor and increase in the importance of neighborhood newsletters. Where once a town’s mayor made the news the neighborhood gossip will be setting the tone for the street. And by definition, your street is the new town.
Rise of the Human: Some years ago I was involved in creating an online concierge service for the everyman. It succeeded on a small scale (a few markets), but penetration of local onliners 13 years ago was pretty small. Today it’s a new world – everyone is, of course, online and more important they are comfortable transacting and communicating. Look for empowered locals to make themselves available for all matter of advice / information / guidance at the very local level. And expect the communication to be individualized and instant (maybe video but more likely live chat). These are not the local “guides” we see today associated with travel networks; these are independent, self-motivated local experts.
Trojan Coupons: Groupon or LivingSocial shows their hands revealing clearly that coupons are anymore just a Trojan horse into local. These guys want to go way beyond deals and into localized utility: scheduling all manner of services and appointments; providing night-out scenarios for working parents, including the babysitter; tracking key data points on your car and home, and providing options for help sent to your house and so on. Don’t expect them to broach the hyperlocal news biz, but who knows!
Acceptance of Intrusion: Get ready for all your important daily decisions to be either decided for you, anticipated or at least assisted. The mobile+group data+your data revolution is fully under way and in 2012 we’ll see people deciding that the benefits of this revolution are outweighing the intrusion into their privacy.
Consolidate to Win: AOL’s Patch will trim smaller, underperforming “Patches” and either abandon coverage of some towns, attempt to make them self-generated or fold the responsibility into other nearby Patch sites. Get ready for a challenging year, local editors. And not just because the regional editors are both a fatty layer and a necessity to maintain continuity and quality, but because some of these regional editors are absolutely key to raising morale, setting direction, providing needed guidance — and some may not be pulling it off.
And if none of this interests you, maybe you’ll want to check if you were guilty of my eight phrases and behaviors that should be banned in 2011 but won’t.