Goff and Howard Public Relations / Public Affairs Logo

Monday, May 4, 2009

Hyperlocal and doing just fine, thank you.

For some in this new media world, the glass may not be exactly half-full, but there might be a way to put a little water in it. A community media publisher from Maine has a model – called Village Soup – that blends together print, online, and social media technology. This new model could be what others need to survive.

The traditional community newspaper publisher spent years experimenting and has now evolved into an operation with online sales that collectively generate 19% of its $2.5 million in annual ad revenues. This is something that appears to be a first in the print media world.

At the core of the success is the buzzword “hyper-local.” It focuses on a very specific area where the media company can offer something of value to its readers. Think Highland Villager vs. the Star Tribune’s national news coverage. For some in the news media, this is a concept beneath many reporters and editors who would rather focus on Washington, D.C., Europe, and Asia.

But for Village Soup, hyper-local is a way to serve customers, connect with the community – and make money. Village Soup has a branded Web site and separately branded weekly papers for each of four communities. Each city also has a section on the Village Soup site.

The Web site has content from reporters, but two-thirds of the Village Soup sites’ front pages are filled with citizen and business posts. New revenue comes from sponsored postings that businesses can buy. The posts, which run right next to the ordinary editorial content, are not controlled by Village Soup. It’s a blend of new, old, and social media.

This may not be the solution, but is an example of an idea that is actually working at a time when so many others clearly are not.