Can Hyperlocals Help Solve the Jobs Problem?

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The stock market is falling, Europe is teetering and for many Americans, there are few jobs in sight.

On Monday, the National Association of Business Economics issued a report underscoring what many Americans already know: jobs aren’t coming back in any substantial way any time soon. The panel of 52 economics experts said they expected GDP to grow just 1.5% this year, too low to move the needle on the 9% unemployment rate.

It’s largely the same story across America, although some areas have been hit worse than others, such as Detroit, where the contracting auto industry resulted in a loss of 334,000 jobs and the unemployment rate remains somewhere near Spain’s, at 15%.

What are all these frustrated workers to do? Many have turned to online work that pays little, and most who have faced months and even years of unemployment may blame their geography. Which might, actually, be an asset:

We’d like to suggest one potential employer: the hundreds of hyperlocal publishers across the country, in towns small and large, who are dying for some help generating revenue. Sites like HelloDetroit. Because they’re everywhere, hyperlocal expertise isn’t rooted to one area as certain skills and experience are for regions heavily dependent on a particular industry.

What hyperlocal publishers need are an ad sales force. These publishers, rather than slap Google Ads on their sites, would prefer to feature an offer from the local pizza joint, or a branding message from a car dealership. Local ads improve aesthetics and revenue and validate these sites’ purpose as a hub for the community.

The problem for most sites is, however, the cost of hiring full-time staff. Many hyperlocal websites are turning to ad networks such as Next Door Media, which focuses on Seattle blogs and sells their inventory for them. Ad networks like these that specialize in a particular geography are a great alternative to having no sales staff, but the 9% unemployed and 19.3% underemployed Americans present another potential solution.

“Local advertising sales is truly about relationships,” wrote Street Fight columnist Alex Salkever in July. “Small merchants want to support businesses and people they like.”

Hyperlocal publishers may not be able to afford a full-time sales force, but they can recruit one anyway, to help them build out these relationships with local businesses. They are in a great position to offer an unemployed or underemployed worker a way to make money and keep their resume active: Pay commission-only, and allow sales staff to set hours that work with their job-hunting schedules.

With thousands of hyperlocal websites across the country, and local businesses looking for better ways to reach customers, surely tapping into an available workforce can make even a small dent in the unemployment rate.

Laura Rich is co-founder and CEO of Street Fight.