Outside.in Relaunches with Scale

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The awkward phrase “hyper-local” is now embedded in the discussion about local search. It’s a phrase, for example, that online newspapers are using to describe their community strategies, and it’s a phrase that I may unwittingly have coined in 2005 (if I did, I apologize) to describe a category of sites that were seeking to penetrate below the metro level to “surface” and generate content at the neighborhood and zip levels.

Backfence was the exemplar of such an ambition, which typically involves user participation to a much greater degree than “top-down” local search (i.e., Google Maps). Indeed, finding the gold in local markets is about getting information and advice out of the heads of the people who live there.

This week a new local site formally launched, or re-launched more precisely: Outside.in. When the site first appeared last October, I characterized it as a community site or local blog network. I especially liked how the site creatively solved the domain name problem by using a “.in” extension.

Founder Steven Johnson explained the ambition and inspiration behind the site when it first appeared:

We set out to create this experience for one overarching reason: to date, online neighborhood information has been a divided space. On the one hand, there is a great surplus of data out there: the hyperlocal bloggers, review sites like Yelp and Judysbook, city government sites, and traditional media. The problem is: there’s no single place that unites all those different voices, that grounds them all in specific locations. With help from you — suggesting and tagging neighborhood data, and suggesting ways that we can better organize the web geographically — we think outside.in can help unify the divided space of hyperlocal content. And in doing so, hopefully we can make our neighborhoods even more interesting places than they already are.

He’s right of course but doing all this effectively is a big challenge. He’s really talking about the project of local search itself here. Users want convenient, comprehensive and reliable access to all this information in an intuitive way. And many people also want that information in the context of a community in which they can share ideas and participate.

Read the rest of this post at SEL.


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