the kicker

Can Yahoo Woo San Francisco?

Search giant readies a hyperlocal network
August 27, 2010

Following rival AOL’s lead, Yahoo has started a hyperlocal rollout. First stop: San Francisco. Yahoo purchased online publisher (content farm) Associated Content this spring, which it is now putting to work. Yahoo just sent out an e-mail blast to Associated Content contributors, soliciting writers for the new project. Details from Alan D. Mutter’s Reflections of a Newsosaur blog on Friday:

Yahoo said it is “looking for writers living in or near the San Francisco area (like you!) to write compelling, local content — ranging from highlights of your favorite neighborhood destinations to metro-wide, first-person reporting assignments covering the stories and topics not typically found in mainstream news media.”

A questionnaire soliciting personal interests and writing samples from potential contributors indicates that the site will cover crime, local news, politics, weather, traffic, transit, sports, business, local celebrities, personal-interest stories, events and things to do, nightlife, restaurants, social calendar, real estate and development, education.

Those responding to the questionnaire were promised “a $10 assignment to write on any topic about San Francisco!” In the future, Yahoo said “select contributors” will receive “weekly, paid assignments to write articles on SF and their own neighborhoods.”

Ryan Derousseau at MediaJobsDaily muses, “Interesting move for Yahoo to go hyperlocal in one of the most covered cities on the Web.” I asked the same question last month when Patch advertised for an editor in Park Slope, Brooklyn. But the more I think about it, it’s not necessarily a bad place to start, if it’s also a city with some of the most plugged-in and engaged readers.

I was in San Francisco a few months ago and could not believe the ubiquity of iPad billboards. At first, it struck me as overkill, preaching to the choir. I admit I don’t know much about marketing. But I began to realize that the strategy was to woo the early adopters, the very people who are most likely to buy an iPad in the first place. The early adopters are the ones who set the tone for the conversation. If they say the iPad is cool, other people listen. They are the ones you need to impress. (I’m sure this is not an original thought: I’m clearly butchering something I read in The Tipping Point.)

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Getting back to Yahoo’s news venture, I guess in choosing their locales they’ve got to find the sweet spot of big-enough reader base but not-yet-oversaturated market. And the market is quite saturated; Mutter notes that there are already “literally hundreds of institutional and individual efforts to cover the news in Northern California,” including several big papers and alt-weeklies, non-profit organizations like the Center for Investigative Reporting and The Bay Citizen, and at least 245 blogs and hyperlocal news sites, tracked by the Bay News Network. Wow.

So, they’ve got a mountain to climb there. But they’ve also got money and an impressive amount of daily traffic, so why not give it a try? I should note, too, that San Francisco is just a start: PaidContent points out that Yahoo’s career page shows openings for local editors in San Jose, Chicago, and Dallas.

Lauren Kirchner is a freelance writer covering digital security for CJR. Find her on Twitter at @lkirchner