I have spent my best thinking minutes this morning considering the concept of Hyperlocal.
My professional writing needs to reflect the essence of hyperlocal. Which means, my readers should never be jarred by the sudden thought: “He doesn’t live here.” I have readers from the east coast to the west coast, from the mountains to the prairies. Hyperlocal means I need to write with some measure of authority about life where my readers are living it. I need to have some measure of my readers, people I have never and likely will never have the chance to meet. Who live in a place I will never visit, in a town I’ve almost always never been too. They face unique challenges in their day to day lives that I don’t. Because of where they are, they are different than me.
Hyperlocal? How can I possibly achieve that?
I start with the fundamental basic: No matter where they live or what they do, people are people. And I can start to understand their lives by using the tools the internet gives me.
* Where do they live and what does it look like? This is my first step, and I rely on Google and Flickr. With Google Maps, Google Street View and Google Image Search, I can begin to get a feel for my readers. I can see what streets they take to leave and return home. I can begin to trace out patterns. Where do they shop, get gas, go out to eat? I can use Street View to visualize their commutes, to see the details they no longer consider important as they drive. And I can use Google Image Search and Flickr to begin to see what they do see as important nearby.
* Where do they go and why do they go there? With Yelp, I can begin to find out where they shop, the places they like to eat and hang out. I can read about their experiences with these establishments, and begin to get a sense of who the people in this community really are.
* Who are they? The final, and best step, is to talk to someone, anyone local. Just one brief conversation can open up my eyes to life somewhere far away. What’s the weather like this time of year? What’s the big news in and around town? What shows and concerts are coming to town? Where do you go for a beer, a glass of wine, or a cup of coffee? I want to talk to as many locals as I can reach out to and touch. It can be via twitter, email or facebook. But over the phone is far better.
I don’t believe that hyperlocal requires me to be at any one location. It does require attention to detail.
Years ago, I was reading Tom Clancey’s “Clear and Present Danger,” which briefly included some scenes set in the Mobile, Alabama area. I lived there at the time, so it really was jarring to me when he got the details wrong. I had a chance to ask him about his research on locations in a GEnie chat. His response was that the details weren’t particularly important to him.
My belief is that particular details are important, especially when writing hyperlocal blogs. Get them wrong, and your audience will know it. Get them right, and your audience won’t notice you’re not there.
Wikipedia has an interesting, albeit summary of hyperlocal: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Local_news#Hyperlocal
Steven Johnson’s “Pothole Paradox”: http://www.stevenberlinjohnson.com/the-pothole-paradox.html
And Tim Lindgren’s academic take on hyperlocal: http://english.ttu.edu/kairos/10.1/binder2.html?coverweb/lindgren/index.htm
New York Times article on hyperlocal news: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/13/technology/start-ups/13hyperlocal.html