Street Fight Staff and Friends Predict 2013’s Top Stories

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Last week, some top hyperlocal luminaries weighed in with their predictions for what we can expect to see in the coming year. Street Fight co-founders David Hirschman and Laura Rich also recently submitted their prediction for 2013 as part of Nieman Journalism Lab’s end-of-year roundup, suggesting that local news would continue to get more automated in the coming year.

Today we’ve asked Street Fight staffers and a few friends who regularly contribute to the site to submit their own prognostications for what’s to come in the realm of location-based services, local search, daily deals, and hyperlocal content. (Click here to check out our predictions from last year.)

Thanks to all of our readers for your support over the past year. We’re looking forward to bringing you more great content, research, and events about sustainable hyperlocal business models in 2013!

Steven Jacobs, deputy editor, Street Fight
When 2012 began, there was a lot of talk around “passive location” and the opportunities for apps like Highlight and Glassmap to redefine location sharing. That value proposition remains questionable for consumers, but the opportunities for passive data exchange and analysis (such as automation) are opening up on the business side of the market. As more and more data and insights are available to small businesses owners, the ability to automate decisions and create services on top of that data will go from a luxury to a necessity as the amount of data proliferates.

And 2013 will see small business owners reach a previously unimaginable conclusion: There simply will be too much data about their operations. Between marketing campaigns on Yelp, loyalty programs like Belly, and payments providers like Square, it will be impossible to digest, analyze, and react to each indicator in a proactive way. Instead we’ll see merchants, as enterprise business has over the past few years, turn to the algorithm to actually execute decisions. (“If transactions are below X then increase marketing by Y.”) It will be the local marketplace’s “Nate Silver moment,” when data shifts from a cog in an otherwise qualitative decision-making process to the foundation of a quantitative one.

Asif Khan, president of the Location-Based Marketing Association, and “On Location” columnist
When you look at the last 12 months, it’s pretty clear that location is going mainstream. Because of acquisitions like Instagram and Geoloqi and new products from Urban Airship and Google, location is on the breath of every marketer on the planet.

So what will 2013 bring?  For me it’s about understanding that the real value in location is in understanding its importance in the big data discussion. Companies like Clearstory, Factual, and Maponics are certainly to benefit from this. But, don’t forget about the consumer. Platforms like Singly and Personal will gain new strength as consumers realize that their location data is not a question of privacy but instead an opportunity to profit!

I envision a future where data (especially location) won’t reside in databases that we simply make calls to when needed, but instead it will (and does) reside in the devices each and every one of us carries around.  And 2013 will be owned by those companies that learn to interrogate the world.

Damian Rollison, VP-product, UBL, and “Streets Ahead” columnist
The great Google contradiction at present is the wide gap between the excellent Google Maps consumer experience, led by innovations in mobile, and the unsustainable confusion of Google+ Local from the point of view of the business owner. It seems inevitable that in 2013 Google will integrate the remaining pieces of the old Google Places into Google+ and solve some of the most egregious issues. Even better would be for it to direct some of the company’s brilliant innovative minds to the common types of businesses for which Google has traditionally provided poor support, such as service-based and multilocation businesses.

As for local search in general, I would expect to see an increasingly heavy emphasis on mobile, which has already come close to eclipsing desktop search in terms of industry attention. I think app developers need to stop thinking of mobile search as a stripped-down version of the desktop experience. Instead it will become a complete replacement.

Tom Grubisich, The New News” columnist
The new Local Independent Online News Publishers trade association will put out some documentation showing the extent to which community news sites are achieving sustainability. The lack of solid numbers casts a long shadow on hyperlocals overall, despite numbers from Borrell’s survey of sites showing big gains in ad revenue in 2012 and bigger ones projected for 2013.

Patch will do something big in editorial to finally get control of the network’s high costs.

The Washington Post will do something big to close the Northern Virginia gap in the reach of its metro D.C. hyperlocal network.

Sacramento Press will license AdGlue — the software tool that empowers businesses to control where they want their ads to appear online — to other community-based publishers beyond metro Sacramento.

GoLocal24 — now in Providence, R.I., and Worcester, Mass. — will extend its footprint to at least a couple more midsize communities in New England.

Stephanie Miles, Street Fight associate editor and Case Study writer
Small business owners have gotten so much savvier when it comes to online marketing, and they’re demanding more out of the platforms they choose to work with.

In 2013, SMBs will continue to refine the deals and coupons they’re offering to customers. I predict that rather than sending out generic deals to their entire email lists, more and more merchants will use data from their point-of-sale systems to send targeted offers to customers during off-peak hours or periods of inclement weather. If vendors can create self-serve platforms that make it easy for merchants to send targeted offers in real time, then I definitely think we’re at a place where merchants are ready to go in that direction.

Matt Sokoloff, Reynolds Journalism Institute fellow and regular Street Fight contributor
In 2013, SMBs will begin ditching their websites in favor of Facebook (and Google+). For a lot of SMBs, their social network pages rank higher than their main site’s, and, if they are happy with the level of their social media interaction, many will ditch their main site.

Newspapers will be forced to make drastic changes when national pre-print advertisers move their business to Valassis. The changes will be a combination of staff cuts (both in editorial and advertising) and reducing the number of days the paper is published.

Indie hyperlocal news sites will experiment more with “memberships” as a way for readers to support their publication and get additional benefits.

More than half of the traffic to most news sites will be from mobile. This will hurt the sites, as mobile CPMs tend to be much lower. It will also hurt ad networks and remnant providers because it’s not even worthwhile for most news sites to play in that space at such low CPMs.

Flipboard will announce a subscription plan that will allow publishers of any size to participate. Publishers who opt in will receive a proportional amount of the subscription price based on the number of their articles read. This will be a win for hyperlocals if they can get their content showcased on the app based on users’ location.

Apple’s new Apple TV (or whatever it will be called) will allow people to watch even more on-demand TV shows and local stations will lose out big time. Very few people will end up watching local news on demand and it’s easy to see an end to the network affiliate model for TV (although that will take longer to play out).

Rick Robinson, chief product officer at and “Turf Talk” columnist
Technology: The location-ization through technology of everything begins. Location of goods, of automobiles, of people not only becomes available through common technology, more importantly it is exposed in a singular format requiring nothing more than a phone to take advantage of. Expect a single-view dashboard of the location of everything in your life that matters.

Social: Connecting virtually with strangers around the world will be joined by a soon-to-be-common behavior: ephemeral connections with people we don’t know but who can provide services based on their location and proximity. This will involve both those in fixed locations as in restaurants as well as mobile ones like roaming human couriers. These arrangements will often be to provide services for people who don’t want to do work themselves (and can afford to pay a small charge), while also creating new kinds of work for skilled and unskilled labor. This will contribute to an uber-trend, so to speak, of the “instant economy.” Consumers more and more will begin to expect that waiting for anything is obsolete. Goods and services — even those purchased online — will be brought to the purchaser as quickly as possible upon ordering.

Economy: Fledgling entrepreneurs and otherwise enterprising people will take to Craigslist and other platforms to provide a place for consumer wishes to be filled promptly and reliably. No more diving into directories looking for answers. Consumers will send their requests to the marketplace, with the results widespread, as merchants respond with their best price and college students scramble to find you a buyer for your used car.

Journalism: Newspapers and local online journalism sites will abandon the battle of breadth and instead focus on (at any given time) three stories that have legs. Through timely and ongoing reporting (and repositioning) of the stories, cajoling responses from citizens, and a little stirring of the pot, editors will successfully have people finding themselves caring about issues not just because they are local but because their neighbors are talking about them.

Got a prediction of your own? Let us know about it in the comments!