Hyperlocal's a Moving Target


Hyperlocal is not all it's hyped up to be as an ad medium—but such venues are making efforts to juice up their offerings and turn the focus on targeted consumer-centric content and experiences into increasingly compelling opportunities for advertisers.

ZipLocal, a firm specializing in local search, this week unveiled a platform called LocaLeads, a digital ad system that distributes hyperlocal advertising content from SMBs to the Web and mobile publishers—and it charges advertisers only if they get actual leads. Here’s what's good about it: With LocaLeads, businesses get a dashboard where they can track consumer intent and check off a quality lead.

Overall, the hyperlocal model continues to evolve and expand, becoming increasingly portable and pliant in the process. And the big guys are getting into the act. AOL and Yahoo are sharpening their focus on local content. AOL's homepage redesign this week and the Yahoo Local portal are key examples, providing tailored content for users and targeted ad opportunities for marketers.

Those opportunities, however, remain to be fully exploited—with the ultimate success (or failure) of the hyperlocal model still a big question.

While many in the blogosphere and the media have dubbed it a "multibillion dollar business opportunity," hyperlocal is in fact grey area for advertisers who, as ever, want sure-fire bangs for their bucks.

"Here's the problem: The hyperlocal content everyone focuses on is news. But advertisers are not looking for content; they're looking for an audience and certain [consumer] characteristics," said Gordon Borrell, CEO of Borrell Associates, a research firm that specializes in local advertising. "I still have worries about sites like or other hyperlocal news sites attracting much less valuable audiences [for advertisers]."

Not surprisingly, Patch president Warren Webster disagrees. He argues Patch-founded in 2007 by Tim Armstrong, now CEO of AOL-allows national advertisers to play in local markets, and local advertisers to get the exposure they wouldn't otherwise get. (Armstrong didn't forget his roots. AOL acquired Patch last year, investing even more money in the hyperlocal space.) RELATED: AOL Ad Revenue Plummets in Dismal Q3

In addition to events and business listings, Patch serves up daily neighborhood news-produced locally by professional reporters-which the service has been intensely hiring since it launched. With AOL's investment, Patch plans to debut its 500th site by the end of this year.

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