Google Moves toward Local News

September 12, 2013

Google seems to be eyeing the “hyperlocal” news business. TechNewsWorld informs us that “Google May Drill Down to Neighborhood News.” The write-up cites a report from Quartz that the company is testing the local waters within its Google Now service. Will Google succeed where AOL Patch and others have failed? Writer Richard Adhikari reminds us:

“Online local news sites have not done very well since the hyperlocal news frenzy began back in 2009. NBC shut down EveryBlock in February, The Daily Voice filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in May, and AOL’s Patch has been hemorrhaging money and staff.”

Some say that those efforts have fallen short because their hyperlocal focus was not local enough. That is, they have tried to fit local cultures into one-approach-fits-all templates. It may seem counterintuitive, then, to expect a global behemoth to succeed at this gambit. However, the article notes:

“It could be argued that Google’s position as an Internet search powerhouse, and its strengthening geo-location capabilities, would positively impact its move into hyperlocal news if that should come about.

“Google recently added live incident reports on road closures and on-the-go rerouting to Google Maps, for example. Google News already uses geo-location to provide readers with relevant local news, and the GPS is turned on by default when mobile device users go to Google Maps.”

Adhikari suggests that Google’s mobile-related legal woes in the EU may impact its plans. So could the typically limited advertising budgets of small, local businesses. On the other hand, Google Glass could be the perfect platform for hyperlocal content, placing information relevant to our surroundings right in front of our eyeballs. If they invest in true local engagement, physically sending in humans to survey the landscape, this just might pay off for Google. If so, perhaps it will help offset the company’s declining paid-search revenue.

Cynthia Murrell, September 12, 2013

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