Category Archives: HyperLocal

SFSW16: Airbnb Posits Itself as Hyperlocal’s New Face


Airbnb is focusing on posting hyperlocal information as part of its mission to add value and interest in its far-flung listing network. Roughly 75% of its 2.4 million listings in 340,000 cities are located outside of traditional urban centers.

North American Regional Operations head Aaron Zifkin, speaking this week at StreetFight Summit West in San Francisco, said the company is focused on expanding its guidebooks. “We try to get all the information that is useful for everyone who is travelling,” said Zifkin.

Top topics for the guidebooks include restaurants, performances, parks and trails to appeal to everyone from foodies to joggers. Airbnb is culling the information in partnerships with local chambers of commerce and downtown business development districts, along with hosts and other sources.

One of its most ambitious efforts was with the local government in Brooklyn. Airbnb estimates it has added over $200 million to the local economy.

It is a persuasive argument, but there is, of course, also a political angle here. While the company has vowed to collect local taxes, it is facing real pressure from the hospitality industry and local politicians on its alleged tax drain and overall impact on the tourism infrastructure.

SFSW16: Location’s All About OmniChannel

After the Christmas shopping season, many people in the retail ecosystem began to write off Beacons and the entire premise of location targeting as a lot of tech hype.

That’s not the actual case at all, says Unacast CEO Thomas Walle (and he better think that: Unacast claims to be the world’s largest beacon/proximity network.) Speaking this week at Streetfight Summit West in San Francisco, Walle says the key is to understand that location targeting’s power comes from precisely-used omnichannel: beacons, geofencing/GPS, WiFi, NFC, Audio and QR all complement each other.

The combinations are powerful: In retail, there are more than 100+ uses. Beyond retail, hotels, airports, stadiums, cares and museums also have adopted dozens of uses.

Among retailers deploying location targeting, beacons are being used by 95% (and will have 8 million units in place by the end of 2016, per ABI research.) Walle says that beacon penetration will continue to rise as Google’s Eddystone standard continues to gain penetration, complementing Apple’s widely used, but ultimately limited iBeacon standard.

Eddystone is currently supported by 45% of the location targeting retailers, up from 38% in 2015. iBeacon, meanwhile, is supported by 90%, which represents a slight decrease.

Meanwhile, geofencing/GPS is being used by 54%; Wi-Fi is being used by 28%; NFC by 16%; Audio by 16%; and QR by 10%. QR has been prematurely written off, says Halle. It’s a great lead tool.

Location targeting also benefits from the very broad definition of “location.” This has led to companies diversifying their platform offerings. Generally, people see it as a push medium, says Walle (i.e. receive a coupon on your mobile device.) Mobile accounts for 73% of usage. But other uses are also very high. Indoor navigation, for instance, is 51%; proximity ad nets is 34%; online retargeting is 20%; digital signage is 11%; and data monetization is 5%.

My Podcast Predictions for 2016: I’m on ‘The Digital CMO with Mike Orren’

Can the daily deals model recover? Will beacons be big in retail? Why is the home services space set to soar? How will custom deals be more sophisticated in the new year? And how can marketers decide which “unicorns” to bet on and which to ignore?

Speakeasy CEO and social and hyperlocal media pioneer Mike Orren interviews me — The Local Onliner — about what’s happening in local and media in 2016 for his new show, The Digital CMO. It runs about 34 minutes….Here’s the podcast link.

At BIA/Kelsey NEXT: Local’s New Linking Technologies and Intersection’s LinkNYC

We always like to call out the “laboratories” of locals, and efforts to embrace and leverage the latest technologies. At BIA/Kelsey’s NEXT conference Dec. 9-10 in Hollywood, we heard a lot from the laboratories, and their various goals.

Interestingly, most were not focused on simply extending media properties, or making them more efficient (except, perhaps, the automation and programmatic guys).

Instead, we saw a heavy focus on the new linking technologies, which take data from everywhere; personalizes it; and pushes it out across different channels, especially mobile. Google Now, Facebook, Microsoft, Groupon, Mogl, Intersection, Button, Orange, Quick.ly, Workwave, Retailigence and Wanderful Media were among the progressive companies presenting (and Local SEO Guide’s Andrew Shotland talked about Apple’s new focus on extending Apple Search across all its media and commerce channels). The linking efforts would ideally produce “a Tesla” from the combination of cost value, experience value and platform value, noted Cisco Research Fellow Andy Naronha.

Intersection – a new company formed by the merger of Control Group and Titan, and invested in by Google’s Sidewalk Labs — certainly has its eyes on the prize. CSO Dave Etherington said the company’s LinkNYC is a prototype project bringing data and media to the 3.5 million New Yorkers who don’t have access to broadband by transforming 7,500 payphones throughout the five boroughs to broadband machines. They’ll each feature a free gigabyte of Wifi, and access to digital services.

Intersection has a 15 year contract from New York for the project, which is projected to be funded by ad sales, and lets the city “reimagine real estate, technology and value…..wherever there is real estate. The more value you can bring, the more people will use it,” says Etherington, noting that the effort is working to “democratize the city” and will inspire new efforts by schools and hackathons. At the same time, ad revenue sharing is projected to bring in over $500 Million to the city’s coffers over the project’s first 12 years.

If it all works, it is definitely a better deal for New Yorkers than giving Disney the keys to a large part of 42nd street to help redevelop it, or Donald Trump the keys to the Commodore Hotel on a tax free basis to build today’s Grand Hyatt.

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Intersection’s Dave Etherington and Cisco’s Andy Noronha

NextDoor’s ‘Neighborhood Favorites’ Gets Closer to a Business Model

Next Door Media is soft launching a “Neighborhood Favorites” feature in a number of markets that should be highly attractive to users, and serve as its first attempt to charge businesses for promotion. The launches are in Alameda and Contra Costa counties in California; Collin County, Texas; and King County, Washington. Greg Sterling initially reported on the development on his blog.

There is reason, of course, to be skeptical. Hyperlocal concepts from AOL Patch way back to Family Education Network have typically relied on high penetration of local users, frequent newspaper-like visits, and active participation. None of them have come close to succeeding as local media.

Until now, there has been no reason to think that NextDoor, which was founded in 2010, would be different. A neighborhood site with just a few active neighbors doesn’t make it as media. Basically, given the problems in the hyperlocal space, the major reason we’ve continued to pay attention to Next Door is its ability to raise lots of money — $210 million at this point, giving it a $1.1 billion valuation.

The VCs have obviously been told something we don’t know. And what’s that? That a directional model will make more sense.

Like Yellow Pages, this is what NextDoor is going to be adept at providing. Currently, the company’s “recommendations” – unorganized by business category – are getting one million posts a day from its 53,000 microcommunities, with 800,000 specific cites of businesses. Favorites will only be compiled and sent out to people in the immediate and adjacent neighborhoods, limiting their potential exposure to hype and scam artists. The ten initial categories being compiled are electricians, pest control, plumbers, HVAC, general contractors, dentists, auto mechanics, body shops, roofers and vetenarians

I suspect that when it can begin promoting its service, there will be a genuine viral effect on recommendations, and on new signups. And at that point, NextDoor can begin charging for access, analytics etc.

Here’s my personal story: The leaves are off the trees and completely cover my gutters. So I just called a gutter cleaner from someone who lives within a mile of me that was recommended on my Next Door community as “very good” and “inexpensive”.

I didn’t know where else I would have gotten that recommendation. Facebook, the various Facebook groups in my metro area; Angie’s List, Yelp and the local newspapers and Yellow Pages aren’t there yet. Their closest listings or recommendations would probably have come from Medford, a larger market — but that is 15 miles from me, and I suspect, would have at least doubled the cost.

Centro: Boost Demand Side Ads With Full Program, Not Just Programmatic

Chicago-based Centro, which helps provide targeted ad solutions to 13,000 publishers – 4,000 at any given time — says it is refocusing on providing publishers with complete Demand Side solutions that integrate first party data targeting, hyperlocal mobile tools, digital extensions and cross-channel capabilities.

Publishers increasingly want to provide greater reach for their advertisers than they can provide from their own-and-operated (O&O) properties, said Centro SVP Katie Risch and VP John Hyland in a discussion with BIA/Kelsey. “O & O solutions are becoming a smaller share of the mix.”

Centro DSP for Publishers, the new product offering, provides a wide range of mobile, display, video and social campaigns directly through Centro’s platform. An increasing amount of these efforts are automated. “Revenue is going towards self -serve,” said Risch and Hyland. “People don’t go back after they start with self-serve.”

To be sure, programmatic – an automated process of planning and placing ads on the platform – represents a big part of Centro’s evolution. Centro has committed 18 buyers specifically to support programmatic. But programmatic needs to be supported with other pieces.

“We are in an early iteration of programmatic,” said Risch and Hyland. It helps to “close the loop.” But “it doesn’t do enough to support the demand side of the business, which is critical for local targeting. The biggest challenge is how to drive demand. There has to be a human layer; a set of KPIs.”

Centro’s Brand Exchange, for instance, has enlisted 1,400 publishers. It allows auto dealers and other SMBs to call on the company to meet their needs for local inventory. With such services, “we are providing a cohesive media strategy, along with first party data.”

Ex Reach Local CEO Revisits Home Improvement; Groupon is Lead Investor

ReachLocal cofounder Zorik Gordon left the company last year after veering sharply to the left with ClubLocal, a consumer-facing brand that would collect home improvement pricing and reviews, and assign jobs to home improvement pros.

Now, Gordon and several ClubLocal alumnis are back with Serviz, a similar service that has launched in southern California after running a beta since February. Groupon is Serviz’s largest investor, with an undisclosed ownership share. ReachLocal, where much of the intellectual work was developed, still controls 19.8 percent of the company.

Groupon could theoretically apply its sales forces to recruit home improvement pros, but Gordon tells us that Serviz is being launched with its own sales forces. Most of the core concepts remain the same from ClubLocal –recruit consumers with convenience, price and service guarantees and a strong review base, and recruit home improvement pros with guaranteed work. “They are fundamentally on demand home services,” said Gordon. “”What we’ve done is focus on transparency, and transparency of pricing. Uber has shown what it takes to really hold and disrupt the conventional ecosystem.

The key differences this time take off from this theme: there is a focus on sole practitioners, who have more flexibility in their time and ability to charge, and ultimately, much lower prices. “You don’t need to charge $250 for a home visit from a home tech, who is being paid $15 an hour,” said Gordon.

Gordon acknowledges there is a lot of competition in the space, with the emergence of players like Thumbtack, Pro.com, Handy, Home Joy and even Amazon coming in, all building on a base that already has Angie’s List and Home Advisor.

Amazon will come in as a marketplace, and won’t be a direct competitor, he says. In fact, he hopes to participate in the Amazon marketplace. “No one is going to come to your house with an Amazon shirt,” says Gordon.

The other services range from what Gordon characterizes as directory listers, like Thumbtack and Pro.com; to low end service fulfillment players like Handy. Serviz will work at higher point in the value chain by focusing more on specialized service providers like HVAC and electrical. “We’re building a horizontal platform around higher end home services,” he says.

Zorik Gordon and Thumbtack CEO Marco Zappacosta are among the initial speakers appearing at Leading in Local: Interactive Local Media, Dec. 3-5 in San Francisco. Get early pricing now.