Hyperlocalism as a Business Model

I had a great conversation with Dan and Gayle Alexander recently.  Dan is the President and Publisher of Denpubsand Gayle is the publisher of Kidsville News.  Our conversation centered around the business model that seems to be working in the news business.  Headquartered in Upstate New York, Denpubs (Denton Publications, Inc.) considers itself more than a newspaper.  Dan and Gail really feel they are a community service.  And as a community service, they are always working on ways to serve the local folks and are doing quite well.

But aren’t newspapers in trouble?  According to the Silicon Alley Insider, 2009 has been a rough year for newspapers.  So far this year, 105 newspapers have been shuttered, 10,000 newspaper jobs have been lost, print ad sales fell 30% in the first quarter of 2009 and 23 of the top 25 newspapers reported circulation declines of between 7% and 20%.  By any measure, much of the newspaper business is in the tank.

So what is the difference between Denton Publication’s business model and most of the newspapers featured in the above statistics?  Denton Publication and a number of other regional or niche publications have focused on hyperlocalism and it has turned out to be good news for a struggling industry.

So what is hyperlocalism?

It’s the focus of news coverage of very local events, especially to the exclusion of seemingly more important world events.  But is hyperlocalism really new?  We’ve heard this song before.  Tip O’Neill told us that “All Politics is Local“.  Environmentalists have encouraged us to “think globally, but act locally”.   St. Augustine said “pray as though everything depended on God. Work as though everything depended on you”.  We become all things to all people at the risk of offering nothing to everyone.

So, consider dominating your current market segment before breaking into new markets.  Think about serving your current customer base better than any of your competitors before breaking into an adjacent market.  Make sure your customers have no reason to go somewhere else.  You’ll build a valuable customer base and give yourself a solid platform from which to grow.

Think local.  Think hyperlocal.

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