by Cecile Oreste, Media Relations Specialist, Business Wire/DC
TBD.com, which launched today, is taking a unique approach to providing hyperlocal news. Unlike AOL’s recently launched Patch.com, which hired reporters to cover local communities in California, New York and other states, TBD.com will partner with more than a hundred community blogs to provide the most comprehensive coverage of the DC Metro area.
That’s not to say that TBD.com won’t have a reporting staff of its own. The TBD.com editorial team is comprised of several journalists from a number of traditional media, including The Washington Post, as well as new media platforms like local blog DCist.com. What makes TBD.com different from other competitors that are also looking to provide news down to the ZIP code is its willingness to admit that no one news outlet can cover it all.
“Aggregation will play an important role. We’re not just producing content, but will be linking to traditional media outlets and our community of blogs when they have content we’re not covering,” said Jeff Sonderman, Senior Community Host of TBD.com. “We’re taking an approach that is almost the opposite of legacy media by not keeping the traffic all to ourselves.”
In addition, TBD.com plans to use an editorial style that mirrors the format of its community blogs, which cover news about a variety of topics including neighborhood issues, food, sports and entertainment. “Our reporters will have more of a blogger mindset. They’ll be focused on talking to a community of users, creating short dispatches, constantly updating stories and linking to other sources,” Sonderman said.
According to Sonderman, there are a number of reasons why the blog movement has developed as much as it has. Blogs tend to engage readers with a more personal perspective versus traditional media which adhere to a specific formula. Blogs are also infinitely customizable and can appeal to even the smallest group of readers.
Sonderman gave the example of Allergy Life in Loudoun – a blog about child food allergy issues, written by a mother raising a daughter with life-threatening allergies. “You’re never going to find a reporter who covers allergies in Loudoun County,” he said. “But there happens to be a blog for that niche audience.”
What can public relations professionals learn from TBD.com’s approach to hyperlocal news? First, we take a lesson from TBD.com’s model of aggregation. Although you can provide journalists with valuable information, you don’t have all the answers. Providing resources or additional credible contacts can help build relationships with journalists.
Second, engage your reader. Press releases don’t always have to follow the same format. Write with voice, humor, wit and get a journalist’s attention by breaking through the clutter.
Finally, find your audience – even if it’s a community interested in a girl living with allergies. Identify who you’re trying to reach and go where they are even if it’s a small publication or local blog.