As a Reston resident and sometime contributor (photos) to Backfence I am curious about the implosion of the company.
When it launched I thought it would not succeed because it was dependent entirely on UGC and I couldn't fathom how they could monetize nothing but neighborhood chatter. It quickly became little more than a new delivery system for local politicians and "reviews" of local businesses and services too few in number to have any faith in.
Is there a lesson here on how newspapers can fend off what many regard as the inevitability of online supremacy in hyperlocal?So Backfence just plain never caught on, and Scott Karp may have it entirely right that established web 1.0 sites were too much competition for this web 2.0 wannabe to disrupt. He notes that a Google search for "Reston" would not necessarily yield Backfence hits even on the first page, which effectively means that nobody would see them -- but an older, established hyperlocal site, RestonWeb, was front and center.
[There is now also what can only be called a hyper-hyperlocal site that serves only a section of Reston known as South Lakes; operated by a local realtor, it invites contributions of recipes and tips and the sort of neighborly tidbits Backfence and others also solicit.]
Karp also notes that "In the age of Google, you no longer have to guess what’s on people’s minds regarding a particular topic — Google’s database is all-knowing, all-seeing" and displays this chart to illustrate.
But Karp doesn't raise one point which may makes this just all a little more interesting: Reston is remarkably well served by three (count'em, 3) local weekly newspapers (That's right. Dead trees) -- The "Reston Observer," "Reston Times" and "Reston Connection." They do all the things you want local papers to do and are delivered free to every homeowner. They both have decent online presences and Google Alerts for "Reston" pull in their content.
So, did video kill the radio star, or vice-versa? Is there a lesson here on how newspapers can fend off what many regard as the inevitability of online supremacy in hyperlocal?
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