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Make The Local Business Community Your Business

February 23, 2010

In almost every discussion with operators of hyperlocal and niche sites, we make the point that to become a business, you must be an integral part of the local business community.

That means attending meetings of the local Rotary and Lions clubs, the chambers of commerce and other business-development groups. You need to go as an interested participant, not just a disinterested reporter or, even worse, someone who’s just schlepping there out of a sense of obligation.

This week over at the Reynolds Journalism Institute’s News Collaboratory, West Seattle Blog’s Tracy Record makes the same point in first-person eloquence:

Direct and personal involvement with your local business community is an important part of entrepreneurial journalism, practiced this way, if you run a community-news/information website. NEVER in a mercenary “hey, we’re schmoozing you to get you to buy an ad” way. Businesspeople can see that from a mile away, and if you don’t see anything in a relationship with them besides “what’s in it for me,” just don’t bother.

GrowthSpur partners will find more advice like that from us in our Operations Manual.  Run a local site but not a GrowthSpur partner yet? Drop us a note.

While we’re at it: We also talk and write a lot about having a focus for your site—the best ones hone in on defined geographies or tightly drawn niches. One of us was reminded of this today, while helping his wife finish a freelance writing project.  Want to know the ins and outs of America’s theme parks? There are not one, but two separate niche sites devoted to them—complete with user reviews and nicely produced point-of-view videos of the roller coasters. Both are chockful of ads designed to appeal to roller-coaster aficionados.

So don’t revert to the “most things to most people” model of classic major media, the newspapers and broadcast stations that dominated the late 20th century. Instead, write for a narrowly defined audience—do what you do best—and let others handle the rest.

If you want to know a bit of geeky economics because why this works, check out our Tom Davidson’s blog post here.

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