Newspapers & Neighborhood Guides

I’m sure this is already being done somewhere, but I’m not aware of it. Newspaper sites would benefit greatly from pulling together or enhancing local, neighborhood guides. It would help them rank, boost page views and revenues — as well as being highly useful.

What got me thinking about this? My wife and I are going out to dinner tonight and I started looking for “best restaurants east bay” to remind myself of the choices. Here are the “above the fold” results on Yahoo!

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Much farther down the page (“below the fold”) the SF Chronicle’s website (sfgate) appears:

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Here’s the result itself:

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Click on the link and it opens to this potentially useful section of the sfgate website:

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But click any of the individual links and you get this kind of text-heavy, relatively disappointing result:

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What’s my point?

Somebody obviously went to the trouble to organize this information into a potentially helpful section. But whoever did it just didn’t go far enough.

Newspapers all over the US could create dedicated neighborhood pages that offer the same types of content suggested by the neighborhoods “home page” above:

  • Restaurants
  • Shopping
  • Attractions
  • Sights & culture
  • Events
  • Places to stay
  • Other

Newspapers have lots more content than exists on these pages. Bring it together more comprehensively and in a more compelling, visual way. Why not combine the newspaper’s own images and content, together with third party video, still photography and community. Below are city pages from TurnHere and Flickr; they’re much more visually interesting and engaging:

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Done right these new neighborhood sites or pages would rank highly in search results and drive thousands of new pages views. And in so doing would attract new/additional advertisers across a range of categories.

In fact, if newspapers wanted to be really ambitious, this idea could be the basis of an entirely new site or sites that showcase the travel, entertainment, events and restaurants content from the paper together with third party content from partners — at a neighborhood level. (One reason to do this as a separate site is to create a better overall user experience than can exist on even revamped newspaper sites.) There are also a range of ways to work community and user-generated content deeply into these pages. Newspapers could even include historical information. Beyond this, there are ways to build local business content and directories into these pages.

And there are definite mobile benefits to these pages as well: I’m here, show me what there is to do, where to eat, etc.

Newspapers are almost uniquely situated to do this and could become the definitive purveyors of neighborhood information online. It would not only help their search visibility it would boost their bottom line. Alas, they’re unlikely to do so however.

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Update: Some newspapers do have so-called “hyperlocal” initiatives (e.g., Triblocal, Daily Camera, Neighborsgo) but often these are just reproductions of the newspaper site/approach on a smaller geographic scale. That’s not what I’m talking about.

8 Responses to “Newspapers & Neighborhood Guides”

  1. Ben Saren Says:

    Workin’ on it, just happening slower than I’d hoped. National expansion of biz data just finished this weekend. Now that the concrete has been poured, a lot more neighborhood-guide stuff is next.

  2. Eric Says:

    Isn’t this what the Trib did with Metromix? (Didn’t save their business…)

  3. Dean McEvoy Says:

    Doesnt Z Vents power the local search on newspaper sites ie boston.com etc

  4. Greg Sterling Says:

    Eric:

    You’re right in a sense, but it was not a “neighborhood guide.” Rather it was a citysearch competitor — designed for and aimed at a younger demographic.

    I’m not arguing that my idea will save the newspapers, rather they already have most or all of the information that I think could be compiled into a useful presentation that might drive lots more page views.

  5. earlpearl Says:

    Excellent presentation, Greg:

    I think that is an excellent idea. The newspapers already have so much more content on these topics than other sites.

    Its a many step process. First they have to focus on phrases that might tend to drive traffic. Some kinds of queries about restaurants in East Bay would probably be one of them, whether its best restaurants, or whatever……

    Then they need to optimize. Below the fold just isn’t good enough to drive traffic. The newspapers should have the talent, skill, and drive to get high rankings for targeted phrases in their communities.

    As shown by you, each part of the site needs to be compelling….and it appears that the text driven one doesn’t do the trick.

    With high rankings, traffic and a built in believability source, that would make newspaper content a wonderful source for advertising revenues.

    You have to start with targeted high rankings though. Below the fold just doesn’t do it.

  6. Greg Sterling Says:

    Thanks. It seems to me a natural.

  7. Andew Shotland Says:

    It’s not just papers, it’s any local media co with a strong brand/domain. All of these guys could rank for any local search term they want, but they don’t seem to have the institutional will (or perhaps budget) to go after this opportunity aggressively.

  8. Everyone’s Getting the Hyperlocal Religion Says:

    […] my Search Engine Land colleague Greg Sterling thinks the Times should do something like that. He recently wrote about the San Francisco Chronicle’s poor attempt at creating neighborhood pages, and compared them […]

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