TV neighborhood blog company to hire 220 more

By Cory Bergman 

While everyone watches AOL’s Patch, a Seattle-based hyperlocal company continues to grow like wildfire. Datasphere powers the technology and sales end of huge network of neighborhood blogs — 1,000 sites and counting — in collaboration with local TV groups Gannett, Raycom, LocalTV, Fisher and Hubbard.

This week Datasphere said it was hiring 220 people for at a telemarketing center in Tempe, Arizona. That’s on top of the 300 new employees it hired over the last year. Revenue from its network of community sites has tripled over that time period.

The Datasphere model cuts TV stations a slice of small-and-medium business ad revenue that’s increasingly flowing to Google, Groupon and other online-only players. Stations (like Seattle’s KOMO above) provide content and the marketing. Datasphere handles everything else for a revenue share. In addition to news, the sites feature a business directory, local deals and a social media presence.

Datasphere is an interesting contrast with Patch (above), which powers everything top to bottom, including hiring dedicated editorial staffers for each site. If you compare the average Datasphere site with Patch — we compared Redmond, Washington above — they look similar. In fact, the sites above even have the same top story about a new restaurant. But the Patch sites tend to feature more coverage and less advertising that Datasphere. Editorial staffing varies across the different Datasphere TV partners.

Seattle-based Fisher Broadcasting was the first station group to launch a network of blogs with Datasphere — more than 100 sites in all, spanning the Seattle and Portland markets.

(Full disclosure: I co-founded Next Door Media, a network of neighborhood blogs in Seattle that competes with Datasphere sites in 10 neighborhoods.)