No apologies that this particular post is not about London and arguably doesn’t even concern a site that is hyperlocal. I’ve previously blogged about how within the hyperlocal industry there are many who appear to regard success as a threat. One of the sites I featured was soglos.com and events site for Gloucestershire. It’s a superbly put together effort based on a very simple concept. I believe that the subscription base for the site’s newsletter is the largest in the UK.
A recent Press Gazette article has revealed that the site is targetting revenues of over £250,000 and currently directly employs 4 people. In the real world this is a tidy small business, in hyperlocal land it makes it an absolute leviathan, possibly the largest in the industry with only one other independent likely to be anywhere near that figure.
It is also a number in pound sterling that the more successful American community web sites like Baristanet and West Seattle Blog claim as their revenues in dollars. They are the poster boys (generally girls actually) of the U.S. hyperlocal industry and widely lauded there as examples of what can be done in this field. The size of SoGlos.com’s revenue targets really does mean people need to reassess what is going on in UK hyperlocal. It is difficult to overstate its importance yet the response has been, well – tumbleweed. The inveterate retweeters of hyperlocal minutae ignored the story and the only person to even acknowledge its significance was Roy Greenslade and even then only in passing. It is almost as if they are worried that if it emerges that some people are successfully generating revenue from hyperlocal, the gravy train of grant support for the industry might be stopped.
The story that was getting the hyperlocalistas excited at that time was My Society’s announcement that they were planning a ‘Hansard for local government’. I am admirer of the work that My Society do but this is a risible idea that isn’t going to get any traction. It is indicative of the dichotomy that exists in the media at the moment between those who believe people should be reading what they tell them and those that believe it is the media’s job to give them what they want. People in Gloucestershire want to know what is going on and Soglos.com caters to that need which is why it is popular and therefore makes money.
The question that Soglos.com should raise for every hyperlocal is ‘am I getting events right’. The site operators that I have spoken to have often been ambivalent about events as the overhead of publishing them is higher and the shelf life of stories is lower. What SoGlos.com appear to have managed to do is convincing most event venues that they need to be on the site and therefore they are willing to supply event details and data in the correct format. Event the better hyperlocal sites in the London area cannot be said to handle events particularly well so this must give them scope for improvement both in user experience and revenues.
Although Soglos.com has a presence in social media it looks pretty evident that the real engine of the business is the e-mail list. This should serve as an encouragement to developing hyperlocal businesses – if you can write something about your area on a regular basis that is sufficiently interesting to persuade people to give you their e-mail address so they can read more then you have the basis for earning a living.