Sunday, June 22, 2008

(06.22.08) Recommends:

Connecting Consumers of Hyperlocal Content with Producers of Hyperlocal Content.

So, Hyperlocal blogging. Placeblogging. Citizen journalism. Whatever you call it, the idea is you see something of interest happening in your neighborhood or community and you blog it. Bloggers and citizens and venture capitalists (see,, twitter, et al) are just getting out of the gates figuring how it's all going to happen. But there is no dispute that it will happen. Over the last several decades we have witnessed media consolidation of an unprecedented scale, and we are now at the beginning stages of the biggest media decentralization in the history of the world. You can laugh at this idea or take it seriously. We're choosing to take it seriously. And having come of age on the internet (we were high school freshman when the first internet browser was commercially released), we strongly urge everybody take it seriously.

Here's an example that shows there is demand for hyperlocal content that is not being met with supply. Yesterday afternoon, as we were descending our neighborhood of Beachwood Canyon, two police cars were urgently ascending it. While this does not happen tremendously frequently, in a city as big as Los Angeles it still happens enough that you don't think about what's happening. Probably a small fire, you shrug off.

But as we came back to our neighborhood, later that afternoon, we noticed that the Franklin Ave. entrance to Beachwood Canyon was blocked off by police presence. We thought this was stranger than the urgent police we previously had seen, but we were still reluctant to draw any connection. This is Hollywood after all, sometimes streets just close down for filming or whatever.

But then a curious thing happened. We got online. And one of the first things we do when we get online is browse the page that tracks our blog's analytics. And starting at 6pm, and steadily continuing until currently, we were getting lots of traffic directed by google from people searching some form of "hostage beachwood canyon" due to the combination of our frequent blogging about our neighborhood and one random post where we jokingly said our camera was being held hostage by a terrorist. In fact, if you currently google the term, our blog will be the first hit. Here's a screenshot of our analytics page (clicking on the pic brings up a bigger image):

So, we did some googling of our own. Currently nothing in the LA Times. Currently nothing in the local blogs we frequently check. But something happened last night in Beachwood Canyon that is a concern to residents. And the first instincts of those residents was to search the internet for more information. It may or may not have even been a hostage situation; the story has not been told, but people want the news and are willing to go to sources outside of the mainstream to find it.

Filling this void, eventually, will be this new form of citizen media. At some point in the near future, I [to drive home the point I'll step outside my usual use of "we"] won't be the only one who will be able to see that people around my neighborhood are searching in abnormally and statistically significant numbers for hostage news. Last night might have been a disconcerting way to see the future. But the future usually springs forth from discontent.

Things are changing, people. And we all get to play a role in the resolution of that change. This should be exciting to us all.

Update: here's a news clip calling the whole episode a hoax.

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