Category Archives: HyperLocal

Local Mass Transit Sites Benefit From Storm Chaos

Hurricane Sandy forced millions of North-easterners out of their travel routines, closing down regular transit routes and services. It also spurred a boomlet in online and mobile searches for alternative transit, as well as weather.

HopStop, a 20 person, four-year-old site, says its traffic for “non subway” searches was up over 800 percent. Biking, taxi, walking, hourly car rentals and biking usage was way up. Bus-only searches were up over 1000%, and bus-only searches were up over 1300 percent.

At the same time, subway/train-only searches were down over 30 percent over the same time frame (due to many of the subways and trains being out-of-service).

The site, which relies heavily on crowd-sourcing for transit route updates, serves 102 major markets in five countries, including the U.S., Canada, U.K, France and Russia. About a dozen more will be added in coming weeks. In early 2013, there are plans to expand to Southeast Asia.

HopStop self-reports that it is the #1-ranked transit app in iTunes, and the #4 ranked free navigation app in iOS overall (after MapQuest, Waze and Telenav). It recently got a boonfall when it was selected as one of the transit defaults for Apple Maps.

The lion’s share of HopStop’s usage has traditionally comes from the Big Apple, its headquarters city. But with all of the outside growth, New York now accounts for less than 50 percent of its traffic, says CEO Joe Meyer. “We’re in every MLB, NFL, NBA, NHL and MLS market,” he notes.

Until recently, HopStop’s major revenue model was geo-targeted ads sold by its own network. The site can sell location aware adds based all current and future whereabouts. “Anyone interested in knowing where people are,” says Meyer. But the company switched in mid-2012 to using Travora (formerly the Travel Ad Network.) “They have the arms and legs to sell ads,” says Meyer.

Top advertisers include such brand names as JetBlue, Delta, Macys, Dunkin’ Donuts, JC Penney, BofA, American Express, Capital One, Disney, Starbucks, ZipCar, Monster, CareerBuilder, as well as major tourism boards and convention bureaus.

Dallas Morning News, Slingshot (and Mike Orren) Team for Local/Social Service

Newspapers have local brand credibility and content; agencies have media expertise; and neither of them do especially well selling SMBs on today’s social-infused media options.

That’s the challenge being addressed by Speakeasy, a new local social service being owned in partnership by Belo’s Dallas Morning News and Slingshot, a Dallas-based interactive agency that will provide a lot of the key infrastructure and media expertise. The effort, majority owned by The News, is being run by Pegasus News Founder Mike Orren.

Orren tells us Speakeasy, in development for several months, includes a lot of elements from prior hyperlocal efforts, and will be aiming at higher end SMBs willing to spend $2k a month for six month contracts – a newspaper sweet spot. It will be positioned above the newspaper’s existing 508 Digital initiative, affiliated with Local Edge, which sells a search/social and display package to smaller SMBs.

Matching content to SMBs is a core initiative for Speakeasy. Content will be available from The News’ archive for placement by clients on their social media and websites.In this regard, it’s not much different than Demand Media’s effort a few years ago to provide content to Merchant Circle clients for $9.95 a month.

But archival content is just part of it. Orren says that he also expects to utilize his extensive network of Dallas-based writers and producers for custom jobs – an effort to similar efforts that CBS Local has running with (where Orren has been a consultant). Digital Sherpa, Yodle and others are also providing custom content aimed at driving higher search ranking and success.

“There’s obvious stuff… stories about the company; gardening columns. But there is also non-traditional content,” says Orren. “A real estate agent can create a site around where neighbors go; and local news content,” he says. A lot of SMB database content – maps of local coffeehouses or entertainment listings — is very poorly done today, he says.

Ultimately, whether unique content is involved or archives, it seems what really matters is bringing local SMBs back into the newspaper fold; efforts previously focused on SEO sales by WebVisible, Maroon Ventures and others.

Amazon Gets into Maps and Directories Via UpNext

Amazon has reportedly purchased UpNext, the five year old, 3D mapping and directory service that now provides “clickable building”-oriented maps for over 50 cities, including 23 that are enhanced in depth. The service has experimented with a number of features, including transportation guides, events, happy hour deals etc. While the purchase price hasn’t been reported, UpNext raised $500,000 in 2011.

For Amazon, the acquisition represents a dive back into the mapping and directory wars it abandoned several years ago when it pulled the plug on its A9 directory. We expect UpNext to be integrated into Kindle Fires and other mobile media; and to leverage the map and directory capabilities for Amazon ad sales, Amazon Offers, and small business support. We also expect it to compete generally with Apple and Google, who are pursuing their own paths in local maps and directories.

We’ve been following UpNext since its inception in 1997. At that time, co-founder Danny Moon launched it with several high school friends as a project in his Entrepreneurs class at Columbia Business School.

I noted that the maps/directories were “cool, but unless you want to torture yourself, you’ll probably want to use a 3D Virtual Cityscape for less than 15 percent of your local lookups. Watching the innovation in the space, however, is thrilling. The applications are already fun, and getting more useful all the time.” The experience, of course, is likely much better today.

source: Addictive Tips

The “New” Learning Annex: Blending Online/Offline Celebrity, Hyperlocal

Before there were Meetups, Great Courses, and online dating services, The Learning Annex held sway. Launched 30 years ago in New York City, The Learning Annex provided classes on everything under the sun, and a way to meet people. Major topics have included self improvement, personal growth, entrepreneurship, wealth building, health and spirituality.

The company, known for its widely distributed print catalogs, has been evolving. Several years ago, it had a new wave of success promoting giant celebrity classes from the likes of Donald Trump, Tony Robbins, Suze Orman, Russell Simmons and Deepak Chopra, in addition to thousands of in person, hyper-local classes.

But what would a full service reboot look like for 2012? That ‘s the challenge for new CEO Dave Galvan, the longtime local vet who’d previously held executives slots with Schedulicity, Topix, InfoUSA and Yahoo.

Galvan tells us that the company is still going strong, but everything is being re-evaluated as it positions for future online growth. “Some things have done really well offline but did not resonate online,” he says. “We want to create the most exciting and dynamic online marketplace for knowledge…think ‘Air BnB’ for education,” he says. “There is no real leader in this space, it’s a wide open market and opportunity.”

He’s brought along a brand new product team to help with the task, and envisions the development of “of a great discovery platform” ” that allows the service to leverage the best of online and offline capabilities. “We could not have done this five years ago,” he says.

Launching late this summer, Galvan says the new Learning Annex will offer the best in offline and online education in a celebrity curated marketplace. Subsequent revs will include additional city roll outs, merchandising and new platform functionality.

Moocho’s Mobile Offers Aims at College Towns

Mobile local promotion and wallet services that marry offers to linked credit card accounts and track usage are proliferating. A partial roster of players includes Plum Rewards, MyFavEats, RewardLoop, AirPay and PunchCard. They’re all fighting for a share of smart phone users in a given community.

Why not just focus on college towns, which have a much higher percentage of smart phone dependent users? That’s the strategy behind Moocho, a self-funded company launched by a team that includes StubHub and Versity vets.

The company has initially launched for seven college towns, including Colorado State, Ohio State, Pittsburgh, UC Berkeley, Virginia, Wisconsin and West Virginia U. Students typically get $1, $2, or $5 off to try a place, and then loyalty points. All activity is tracked for loyalty and engagement. Parents can opt to have their credit cards linked and pay directly (and also limit purchase categories, such as alcohol).

With 22 Million college students, each spending $3k a year, the college market is huge. It also “lends itself to mobile payment app…better than any other vertical or national play,” says CEO Matthew Levenson. The company is seeking to get the top establishments in each market. “It won’t really work if students just use this in a few places that aren’t very relevant,” he says.

To get there, Moocho is hiring local sales vets from established local media, such as Pennysaver. “We are hiring full time pros, not students, says Levenson. “It is a very different commerce play; we need a very high batting average.” Given that these are relatively small markets, “we can’t churn and burn them.”

Google Integrates Zagat into rollout of Google+ Local

Zagat is Google’s great equalizer against Yelp. Google has now demonstrated why it paid $151 Million for Zagat last September by including Zagat, which formerly cost $4.95 a month (or $24.95 per year), as part of its new rollout of Google+ Local. The newly branded service replaces Google Places.

As a result of the integration, which will also feed into Google search results and maps, Google+ users will now be able to see reviews from their friends (and “acquaintances”) when they are looking up local information

While Zagat is known mostly for its 30 point restaurant reviews – more nuanced (and time consuming) than Yelp’s five star system — it now uses the same 30 point platform for 13 categories. More than 100 cities are currently served by Zagat. Outside of the restaurant space, Zagat had previously licensed its system to companies such as Anthem Blue Cross for medical reviews.

At ILM West last December, Head of Local Consumer Marketing Jeff Aguero said “the local experience is mostly disconnected. It is not consistent across user experience,” whether people are engaged in researching, finding, experiencing, reviewing, or sharing. Google’s goals are ultimately to “get more local searches, more customers, more reviews, better content, higher engagement, and more businesses online.”

DataSphere’s $8 Million Infusion and The Two Camps of Hyperlocal

The vision for Hyperlocal – if you believe in it — boils down to two camps. The first camp says it is a labor of love that must be hand-curated to work with merchants and engage the citizenry, town-by-town. Perhaps sites can use shopping and other directory tools, like Local Thunder and ShopCity, to tie things together and scale.

That’s The Batavian for you. GoLocal24. The Magic City Post. And Baristanet. That goes for hyper-vertical sites too, like MedCity.

The second camp says that that the only realistic and scalable opportunity is in a centrally managed operation, providing tools, strategy and branding. Local managers and writers –and sometimes, local media brands, for credibility — might also be involved. With 864 local sites, that’s what AOL’s Patch is. And on a smaller scale, Main Street Connect and DataSphere.

Some people think of these sites as money holes, suffering very high churn from very needy SMB customers, and very small, fragmented audiences. Others think they have the kind of vision that will lead to real success.

Today we focus on DataSphere, whose funding has now reached $32.5 million, with an $8 million infusion this week by First Analysis as well as existing venture capital partners Ignition Partners and OVP Venture Partners. Fisher Communications, the northwestern TV station group, participated in earlier rounds.

DataSphere’s been working with TV stations around the U.S., using their brands and promotional capability to sell services to local SMBs. For the TV stations, these are all new dollars – the TV stations don’t traditionally sell to them.

To work with DataSphere, the stations (and other media partners) essentially had to reach the conclusion that they were never going to attack this market themselves, and that they didn’t mind splitting revenues they would not have otherwise made. These are probably fair assumptions: more so for a TV station than a newspaper.

In a recent discussion with us, SVP Gary Cowan said that DataSphere has found a sweet spot with SMBs, focusing on expertly targeted coupons and other features to show “clear and demonstrable value.” The coupons are broadly distributed, not only on local landing pages, but across a larger network of relevant sites, such as

The company now boasts 100 media partners, and its ads are now targeted across more than 1,900 neighborhoods. Gannett, Fisher and Meredith are among its largest customers. It has 420 employees overall, mostly sales, and the majority of them work phone banks in Bellevue, WA and Tempe, AZ.

Hyperlocal is a core focus at ILM East, which features AOL Local’s Mark Josephson, Consultant Merrill Brown, Main Street Connect’s Zohar Yardeni, GoLocal24’s Josh Fenton and Fisher Communications’ Randa Minkarah. Register Here.