New hyperlocal battleground: New Jersey

By Cory Bergman 

Over the course of the last couple weeks, two hyperlocal ventures have launched in New Jersey. One gathered some ideas from the current capital of neighborhood news, right here in Seattle. Called “very much an experiment,” that venture was launched today by none other than the New York Times. About three months ago, NYT reporter Tina Kelley visited a few neighborhood sites here in the Seattle area: the West Seattle Blog, Exit 133 and our own MyBallard.com network (five neighborhood news sites, all next door to each other). Kelley has now launched a site in her own neighborhood of Maplewood, New Jersey. Another NYT staff reporter, Andy Newman, is heading up the other site in Fort Greene, Brooklyn. Both sites feature contributions (gasp!) from readers, and the Times admits there’s no clear path to profitability. Which is a great first step to figuring this out.

(What advice did we offer? We urged her to convince the NYT to allow her to launch the site on its own domain with its own neighborhood brand, without NYT branding. But as you can see, that didn’t happen. But they are embracing community-powered content — to a point. The comments are pre-moderated.)

Meanwhile, Google executive Tim Armstrong has launched his personal hyperlocal project, Patch.com. Consisting of three New Jersey sites, including one in Maplewood going head-to-head with Kelley’s site, Patch is deeper than NYT’s effort, featuring a business directory, video and data mapping, to name a few. But its overhead is also deeper: 19 staffers, at our count, along with an editorial board with Jeff Jarvis and Phil Meyer — and that doesn’t include the writers. But Patch’s ultimate plans are to go nationwide.

Meanwhile, the pioneering neighborborhood news sites here in Seattle — with large audiences, dozens of advertisers and zero startup investment — have received little press coverage. And we like it that way. Most of the time.

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