Potts Launches Effort to Make HyperLocal into a Real Business

Hyperlocal sites are well intentioned, and most have some kind of a business plan. But they haven’t really focused much on making money. That’s where GrowthSpur, a new company, comes in.

Launched by former Washington Post executive and BackFence founder Mark Potts, GrowthSpur is a “soup to nuts” provider of training and services, targeting an estimated 2,000 hyperlocal “independent” sites (i.e. independent of mainstream media). “We’re trying to support a new ecosystem of sites,” says Potts.

Two hyperlocal sites are currently signed up: Chi Town Daily News and SunValleyOnline. There are also plans to create affinity advertising networks around specialized verticals, such as, for example, sports, news, lifestyles etc.

In this regard, it looks similar to the Voice Local Network established by Village Voice Media. But Potts says his targeted hyperlocal sites are typically “more suburban.”

Regarding the business model, the company won’t charge a fee for working with smaller companies, but will take a cut of revenue instead. Many of these companies are capable of bringing in six figures, says Potts. Larger companies may already be using certain vendors and other services, and they’ll sign on with different arrangements.

Growth Spur will first focus on display. Then it will bring in directory and classified solutions brought in by third parties. E-commerce should also be part of the picture.

Longer term, search may be added as well. But Potts says that the real effort is to allow hyperlocal sites to leverage their relationships with local businesses, such as the service station owner and the pizza place.

Potts has signed up four local media veterans to jumpstart the effort, including sales trainer Mel Taylor; Dave Chase, a former Microsoft Sidewalk exec who operates SunValleyOnline; Tom Davidson, a former exec at Tribune Interactive; and Jennifer McFadden, formerly of New York Times Digital.

The company, which is currently raising funds, also has populated an advisory board that includes Jeff Jarvis, credited as helping create the company’s concept; ChiTownDailyNews founder Geoff Dougherty; NewWest founder Jonathan Weber; Futurist Michael Rogers, a former Washington Post and NY Times exec; HealthCentral’s Chris Schroeder, who was formerly head of WashingtonPost Newsweek Interactive; DigitalSports’ Liddy Manson, who is also a former Post exec; and MotionBox’s Josh Grotstein, who had been a backer of BackFence when he was a partner at SAS Investors.