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12.22.2008
Originally featured on BroadcastEngineering.com
Outside.In attempts a hyper-local news service

While it may appear that traditional television stations and newspapers are dying a long, slow death, the truth is news coverage is shifting to new technologies mainly associated with the Web and Internet.

Local news — long the domain of broadcasters and local newspapers — is a key target as news companies race to reformulate their coverage.

Outside.In, a Brooklyn-based start-up, has gained attention for its new ideas in how to use the Web to distribute local information. The company labels information from across the Web with geographical tags, categorizing it by city, neighborhood, intersection or street address. The site can then provide readers with hyper-local news from news outlets, blogs and even Twitter.

Outside.In helps small publishers find an audience and aides larger publishers in finding local stories. By serving up all this local content, it hopes to help advertisers target the reader on precise streets. The service can tell advertisers where a reader is and affirm that they are reading about their neighborhood. That means an ad for a bookstore that is 50ft from the reader will be more useful for the advertiser and the reader.

Outside.In announced last week that it had raised about $2 million to add to the $5.5 million it has already amassed, primarily from existing investors Union Square Ventures, the New York City Investment Fund and Betaworks. Angel investors who have backed Outside.In include big Silicon Valley names such as Marc Andreessen and Esther Dyson.

“Our whole premise is that these traditional media companies need to evolve to something that’s more sustainable,” Mark Josephson, Outside.In’s CEO, told the “New York Times.” “They’re getting squeezed at the top by the national news organizations, and their customers are expecting really granular, specific, local information, but you can’t put a reporter on every corner.”

The Outside.In Web site went live in 2007 as a service that aggregated local citizen bloggers who cover topics that a town’s citizens are passionate about but that the newspaper might not have the resources to report. That might include a town library brouhaha, the high school football team or the closing of a favorite coffee shop.

Since then, the company has unveiled new services. One of them, Radar, lets readers subscribe to news feeds about their choice of neighborhoods or cities. StoryMaps lets publishers chart their stories on a map. Outside.In has 2 million unique visitors each month and has grown from 400,000 in January, the “Times” reported. An Outside.In iPhone application will be available within a month.

Perhaps most interesting, the “Times” said, is what Outside.In can do for its big publisher partners, including NBC and McClatchy newspapers, who want to be one-stop shops for local news. Outside.In maps stories from around the Web and brings local stories to a publisher’s site.

On NBC Chicago’s Web site, for example, readers can search for stories about the Hyde Park neighborhood and see results from NBC Chicago as well as the “Huffington Post,” the “Chicago Tribune” and the Chicagoist blog.

For smaller publishers, Outside.In offers a map that plots stories by location, giving readers a new way to search.


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