Why Hyper Local Websites Fail

FROM THE ARCHIVES. DEC 2010. Jim Brady abruptly exited TBD.com. Strange since the site was only up and running for about 3 months and had almost everything it needed to succeed. Almost everything.

Now we find that TBD has pulled the plug on the hyper local ad & blogger network that was going to support the effort. Remember, Albritton’s smart online effort was described as the model to follow.

So what happened? My 2 cents:

Like other online news sites run by traditional media, most of the TBD strategy seemed to be lead by editorial, newsroom and tech-savvy execs. It was also heavily influenced by traditional employees who worried about losing control of their legacy kingdom. For a key piece of sales strategy, TBD outsourced that skill to another group of talented editorial, newsroom and tech savvy execs. WTF?

This unfortunate situation begs the questions: Why didn’t TBD owner; Robert Allbritton, install much better local/direct sales expertise into the mix early on? Why did he allow jealous meddling from the TV staff ?

AOL/Patch recently hired a new VP sales. Even Tim Armstrong knows that the massive collection of brain cells featuring John Brod and Warren Webster still needs someone who can bring home the bacon. Zillions of page views + community engagement + great editorial + crappy sales = FAIL.

Outdated model that keeps traditional websites operating in red: Editorial Drives Web Strategy

Successful model that leaders like GAWKER use:  Advertiser Spending Flow Drives Web Strategy

TBD.com relied on the sales force from their sister property that already has their hands full with selling TV spots. It’s also no secret that Television sales reps can always use some extra training and motivation to sell web.

This is just another in a long history of online journalism/business model mis-steps. These continual errors allow pure-plays like Reach Local, Patch, Groupon, Pandora and others….. to grow local reader & advertiser share.

  • The sheer stupidity of a ONA conference attendee asking Tim Armstrong: ‘is Patch evil?’
  • The New York Times handing over ‘The Local’ to professors & local blogs
  • Media companies pouring millions into plans developed by those with NO sales experience
  • Having web department report to newspaper/broadcast department head.
  • Over-reliance on research, analysis and conferences to craft a sales & business model


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