Hyperlocal video has, until now, been basically an oxymoron. The local television stations push out a decent amount of video but it has a metro rather than a hyperlocal focus. Patch.com and other hyperlocal news networks have done a bit of video, but it remains expensive to produce and comparatively hard to monetize at lower traffic levels. Even as small businesses increasingly embrace social media marketing and, to a lesser degree, online text and display ads, you don’t see a lot of mom-and-pop stores doing DIY video ad placements. Likewise, there are a wide variety of video ad networks but those have largely failed to penetrate down to the hyperlocal level — except for wide-scale networks that primarily dump remnant ads on less-trafficked hyperlocal videos.
Which is why a platform like Glocal looks really, really interesting. The Ann Arbor, Michigan video scraping and curation startup has some pretty nifty technology that allows users to drill down to find video content close to where they live. The U.S. map allows users to quickly zoom in and out of local and regional video collections. At this point, there really isn’t enough truly hyperlocal video content to make a platform like Glocal interesting. A drill-down into the San Francisco area reveals only a handful of videos on offer and none that are truly hyperlocal. But the company is skating to the opportunity space ahead of the puck. And it could be on the forefront of a powerful new trend in hyperlocal news.
It is no accident that two of the most effective political videos from the 2012 election — Elizabeth Warren’s living room speech and Mitt Romney’s 47% fundraiser talk — were both captured in low-quality video by non-professional videographers. Yes, we have been moving to an age of content production by the masses for quite a while now. I am also a firm believer that, as companies (either Mom-and-Pops or chains like Patch.com or Baristanet) crack the hyperlocal nut, crowd-sourced content will prove a key component. Heck, it already is a critical component of just about every major hyperlocal effort to some degree. This is precisely the driving force, too, behind the Patch.com redesign (which I really liked, by the way).
Still, crowdsourced video that is good enough or targeted enough for news and regional information remains a rarity. A quick perusal of the new Patch community sites reveals many more pics than videos. The new wave of smartphone cameras, most of which offer HD video capture, will start to deliver higher quality video footage (not pro quality, of course, but high enough to be serviceable and more editable than previous generations of footage). Add to this improved lighting and improved sound capture, and in the very near future a smartphone will be able to readily deliver great capture of everything from city council meetings to parades to spot footage of traffic accidents irrespective of the skill of the shooter.
As the pool of these types of viable videos grow, then a Glocal grows in importance. Google video search does a terrible job at hyperlocal. Patch is fine for its community focus but doesn’t seek to aggregate videos from other sources. So a way to find hyperlocal videos easily (and even to create alerts) becomes more interesting to people who focus on hyperlocal news. Glocal will need to both increase its store of local videos to keep users coming and to figure out ways to enhance virality of its platform as a consumption template for videos at the local and regional level. This means Glocal needs some staying power because I think it has two years to hit its stride before that critical mass starts to appear. And other local video aggregators will surely make the scene. As a start, however, this is pretty cool and I will definitely come back to Glocal to check their progress.
Alex Salkever is an executive at a cloud computing company and a former technology editor of BusinessWeek.com. The views expressed in his column are his own and not those of his employer. His Personal Fight column appears every second Wednesday on Street Fight.
Image courtesy of Flickr user jsawkins.