One form of media that hasn’t yet been well executed on the Internet is local media. Yes, local search is available, and Google’s offering in this area has become very good recently. Local classifieds are also all over the Internet, particularly at Craigslist. And listings are also emerging as a robust category with the advent of services like Yelp.
But where do you turn to when you want to know what’s going on in your city, town, or neighborhood? Nothing has really filled the role of the town paper yet.
And we all know the commercial power of local media. Most commerce is done locally. Look at the advertisers who populate the local paper, the yellow pages, and the local radio stations. They need a place to go online and when they find it, the dollars that will flow are large, very large. Clearly search will get a big piece of that pie (search always does), but the killer local service is one that can serve the residents and the merchants of a city, town, and neighborhood the way the local paper has in the past.
Enter placeblogging. Placebloggers are local citizens who know what is going on in their town and take the time to talk about it on the web. They blog about local real estate concerns, town politics, the high school baseball game, the opening of a new starbucks, and the closing of everyone’s favorite pizza parlor.
Like most blogging, the spectrum runs the gamut from the truly professional blogs like Gothamist in New York to the stay at home “blogger mom” like my wife, The Gotham Gal. Some will placeblog for a living, but the vast majority of placeblogging is a labor of love.
Imagine if you could aggregate up all the posts that every placeblogger writes and sort them by city, town, village, zip code, street, or address. And imagine if each of those “sorts” became a media property of their very own – the Greenwich Village blog, or the Castro blog.
That is exactly what outside.in is doing. They’ve built a platform that placebloggers can submit their content to. Their platform “tags” that content with a geocode — an address, zip code, or city — and that renders a new page for every location that has tagged content. If you visit outside.in/10010, you’ll find out what’s going on in the neigborhood around Union Square Ventures. If you visit outside.in/back_bay, you’ll see what’s going on in Boston’s Back Bay neighborhood.
But it doesn’t stop there. Every geolocation is a feed in outside.in. So you can subscribe to the Santa Monica feed if you want to
keep track of what’s going on in Santa Monica. Better yet, if you are a placeblogger in Beverly Hills, you can use the Beverly Hills feed to supplement your posts and offer your readers a more complete view of what is going on in your neighborhood.
You can also use a map to navigate outside.in. You might not know the zip code you want to keep track of but outside.in lets you use a Google map to drill down to exactly where you want to read about and the page renders the relevant posts.
Outside.in is also a community with people and places in it. You can look at a person’s favorite posts, favorite places, and favorite neighborhoods. These community features are brand new and their effect on the service has yet to be seen.
The reason I am telling you all of this is that Union Square Ventures recently invested in an angel round of financing for Outside.in. We were joined by a collection of really smart thinkers about the web like John Seely Brown, Marc Andressen, Esther Dyson, and John Borthwick. Two early stage venture firms also joined the financing, Village Ventures and Milestone Ventures.
This is the typical first round of outside capital that will allow outside.in to grow from three founders, John Geraci, Cory Forsyth, and Steven Johnson, to a team of closer to ten people. That should be enough to build the service out into something really special.
We have learned that the best web services are two way systems. They take content in, add something to it, and then send it back out. YouTube works this way. So do delicious and Flickr. To date, we haven’t seen such a service for placebloggers. Outside.in will hopefully fill that void and we are excited to be involved.