The sale of AOL’s local media network, Patch, earlier this year marked something of an end to a lot of the optimism that once surrounded hyperlocal media. As local media veteran Jim Brady says, the category entered the “huddle for warmth” phase of its lifecycle.
But panelists, in general, struck more optimistic tone at Street Fight Summit last week. During a panel moderated by Fusion’s Felix Simon, Brady joined Liena Zagare, publisher of Corner Media, and Paul Wright, director of local media for Comcast, to discuss the future of local media in a post-Patch era.
The challenge in hyperlocal media has always been in finding the right revenue model. Whereas Patch and others relied heavily on traditional advertising, Brady, who recently launched Billy Penn, a mobile news platform covering the Philadelphia area, says the company has discounted display advertising entirely.
Instead, Brady says the company, which does not yet generate revenue, plans on focusing monetization efforts around events. Last week, the company hosted its first event — an election viewing party. “It’s about getting people in a room together,” he said.
For Comcast’s Everyblock and Corner Media, the focus remains on experimentation. Zagare says Corner Media, which produces a network of neighborhood sites in Brooklyn, is is constantly experimenting with revenue products — from display ads to announcements to paid content. Wright says that Everyblock is not generating revenue yet, but is considering whether to monetize viewership through advertising, activity, or platform.
In an interesting note, the panelists said that the best way to engage with readers is email. Wright said that Everyblock has seen an average open rate of 51 percent, and that it has sent out millions of emails over the past few months. Meanwhile, Brady said at Billy Penn he is already seeing a 48 percent open rate and it has helped build traffic.