Localism – Hyper Local Real Estate Sales Pitches

ActiveRain, a site that describes itself as “a free online community for real estate professionals designed to help them promote and grow their business,” has launched a new site called Localism. Localism describes itself as the “world’s most complete neighborpedia,” and the front page invites users to “Go Hyper Local!”

It is the latest entrant into what seems to be an already over-served online market. For people that want so-called “hyper local” content, there are already a ton of choices out there including sites like Yelp, StreetAdvisor, and outside.in. Also, because it’s so trivially simple to set up a free blog, many neighborhoods have dedicated blogs that are just a simple Google search away.

John Cook put out a pair of stories about Localism today, one on the P-I and one on his P-I blog. Here’s a brief excerpt:

Of course, since real estate professionals are doing most of the writing there will also be a fair share of stories about buying and selling homes.

Initially, the site — segmented into various communities by state, county, city and neighborhood — will be authored by some of the 90,000 real estate professionals on ActiveRain. But over time, ActiveRain founder Jonathan Washburn said it plans to open the platform to everyone. He also envisions people creating new online communities around schools, subdivisions or churches.

Since John Cook covered the basics of Localism’s press release in his stories, I thought I’d take a different approach. Let’s compare Localism to what I think is their toughest competition: local blogs. For this contest, I picked three (update: four) Seattle-area neighborhoods: two three are currently served by local blogs, and one is not. Let’s see how Localism compares…

Contest #1: West Seattle Blog vs. Localism: West Seattle

West Seattle Blog
On the West Seattle Blog front page, I see nearly thirty stories about a plethora of local happenings, all posted in the last five days. They’ve got posts about a park construction project, upcoming neighborhood meetings and events, news about local code changes that affect the neighborhood, and much more.

Just a few clicks away I find a comprehensive list of neighborhood events, local lost and found, information about local schools, crime reports, and forums. Contributors to WSB include a husband and wife that live in West Seattle, as well as a pair of photographers. A large amount of their content appears to come from tips sent to them via phone, text, or email.

Localism: West Seattle
On the Localism: West Seattle page, I see three posts. All three are about condos in West Seattle. Two posts are from April, one from January. In the most recent post, I learn that West Seattle “exhibited the most buoyant condo sales activity in the city.” In another I see the details of three local condo conversions. In the third, the author laments the sagging prices of condos in West Seattle, which apparently were worth less in December 2007 than January 2006.

Additional content includes a small handful of pictures from West Seattle and a little Google Map, in case you didn’t know where West Seattle is. That’s it. There’s no clear list of who contributes to Localism: West Seattle, but all three posts are penned by Ben Kakimoto, a real estate agent based in Belltown. The site also lists two “Neighbors,” (also both real estate agents—neither of which appear to be based in West Seattle), but gives no indication as to whether they have any role in producing content.

Advantage: West Seattle Blog (not even a contest)

Contest #2: Capitol Hill Seattle vs. Localism: Capitol Hill

Capitol Hill Seattle
On the Capitol Hill Seattle front page, you’ll find twenty-five posts covering a host of local issues, all posted in the last five days. I’m seeing stories about local restaurants, neighborhood events, code changes, crime, and more.

They’ve also got it split up even further to where you can filter the posts by seven different even more specific parts of Capitol Hill. Of course, they also have forums, and they’ve got a nifty little Google Maps application that maps their stories in the neighborhood. You can even choose the “good news map” or the “bad news map.” Anyone in the neighborhood can contribute, and I counted more than ten contributors just by scrolling down the front page.

Localism: Capitol Hill
Five posts, ranging from January to May. Four of them are focused on condos, one on the real estate market as a whole in Capitol Hill. No neighborhood pictures, and the little Google map appears to be broken. Four of the five stories (all the condo ones) were posted by the same guy that wrote the West Seattle ones: Ben K. The other was penned by someone whose profile page contains the enigmatic title “Department of Search.” The authors do not appear to be local to Capitol Hill.

Advantage: Capitol Hill Seattle (by a longshot)

Contest #3: Absolutely Nothing vs. Localism: Kenmore

Absolutely Nothing
The city (and I use the term loosely) of Kenmore has a population of over 19,000 and is located less than three miles from the northern city limits of Seattle. Kenmore has no local blog.

Localism: Kenmore
Localism has a page for Kenmore, technically speaking. However, it is nothing more than an empty placeholder. No posts, no “Neighbors,” no pictures, and a Google Maps widget that is zoomed out to all of North America.

Advantage: Draw

Start of Update
Oh, snap.  I didn’t bother to take my own advice.  A Google search for Kenmore blog indicates that there is a local blog in Kenmore.  Two, actually!  Explore Kenmore and Kenmore Blog.  So I guess this round also goes to neighborhood blogs.

So, to make up for my stupidity, here’s a fourth contest:

Contest #4: Absolutely Nothing vs. Localism: Skyway

Absolutely Nothing
Skyway is an unincorporated area between Renton and Seattle, with no local blog.

Localism: Skyway
Placeholder page with one “neighbor” and three pictures of Skyway.

Advantage: Draw
End of Update

Conclusion
As you can probably tell, I was pretty unimpressed by what Localism has to offer so far. If you want a handful of “hyper local” real estate statistics and sales pitches from “hyper local” agents, then Localism is for you. I’m sure there are some neighborhoods that have interesting and useful information on Localism, but from the standpoint of the end user, I don’t see what the site has to offer that neighborhood blogs do not.

Probably the biggest shortcoming of the Localism platform in its current form is that it doesn’t offer forums or ways for neighbors that actually live in these places to contribute. Comments on posts are disabled and if you try to register you’re told “we’re not taking new accounts right now.” How can you run a so-called “hyper local” site without allowing the actual locals to participate?

They’ve got some grand visions, but my first impression of Localism is “why bother?”

  

About The Tim

Tim Ellis is the founder of Seattle Bubble. His background in engineering and computer / internet technology, a fondness of data-based analysis of problems, and an addiction to spreadsheets all influence his perspective on the Seattle-area real estate market.

26 comments:

  1. 1
    The Tim says:

    Here’s another great example of Localism at its best: Shoreline

    Note the posts by Courtney Cooper. Barely any content, tons of links to her agency site, and a 145-word signature. If someone left comments like that on Seattle Bubble, I’d delete them as spam.

    At least the Shoreline page has five different authors. But the most recent post is still nearly three weeks old, and none of the stories seem like they would be all that interesting to someone living in Shoreline.

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  2. 2
    Ray Pepper says:

    I wonder how often they will promote/discuss 500 Realty, Red Fin, and Iggy’s House?

    I think I will wait for an ALTERNATIVE blog that will give REAL INFORMATION to the masses. Not just Realtor jibberish. I mean seriously….What do they really have to say? As for their Mtg Reps …Come on………….Title and Escrow…Please……… Active Rain….Good Lord….!

    Try to advise Buyers and sellers the truth and they drop your post quicker then me eating at the Bellagio Buffet in between Poker hands!

    Tim ..Start a blog of something like this………..THE END OF THE REALTOR AS WE KNOW IT……..or 6% ARE YOU NUTTS?……..

    We will promote it on our website! Don’t take too long..Our saavy investors may do it first. They keep watching Bubble and like it.

    Ray Pepper
    Broker
    http://www.500Realty.net

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  3. 3
    Ubersalad, Ph.D says:

    Sure Tim…

    Every one of Ray’s post is a self-promoting signature…

    Rate this comment: Thumb up 0

  4. 4
    budbrad says:

    The real estate crisis will be solved by……. a limited-access social network.

    Yup.

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  5. 5
    david losh says:

    Active Rain is a phenomenon I have yet to figure out. It does cater to many discount brokerage firms. It’s very hollow, but my last two high end listing leads contacted me through the site. It’s powerful.
    People must look at it. There are network groups that spend time there as people do here. I don’t really think it’s fair to pick on a new feature, but I agree having a Real Estate site give neighborhood reports is probably a reach they will never make.

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  6. 6
    Civil Servant says:

    Or, Ray, here’s a nutty idea: you could start your *own* blog on your site. If you’re pining for real information to be given to the masses, there is no better way to keep it real than to do it yourself. I’m sure Tim can attest to the fact that building readership takes time, but if you offer solid and relevant content that is presented professionally (ahem), people will want to read it. Not to pile on for sport, but wow I’m getting sick of these gassy, gasping 500 Realty ads masquerading as responses to posts. Their effect is that I skip them and discount 500 Realty as a business that is run by well-informed people I’d be comfortable working with. Ray, I suspect that your participation here in many cases has exactly the opposite effect of what you would wish.

    Ira, on the other hand: So reasonable! So helpful! So able to add perspective to a discussion and generally to communicate in complete sentences. Now that’s PR.

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  7. 7

    TIM, YOU DO GREAT WORK

    After reading the web site from the realitors; its like comparing Pravda to the Seattle times.

    Bloggers have freedom of speech [it is America ya know] and good blogs, like Seattle Bubble, encourage all opinions. The RE website you referenced would likely call most of us bubble brains “trolls”.

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  8. 8
    Ray Pepper says:

    Civil Servant I encourage you to use Ira. He is wonderful. I spoke with him a few times. In fact most Agents are wonderful people but working in an inferior system.

    I’m sorry you dislike my posts. But, I like the Bubble. When I get out of line I hope Tim just deletes the posts like they do at the News Tribune and Rain City. Why do you feel compelled to read my posts. Just skip em. Please.

    We have closed 5 deals for Bubble heads. Many people have found us from this blog and News Tribune. Many more find us from Google, Trade Shows, CNBC commercials, Listings, and mostly word of mouth.

    As for giving info to the masses and striving for that. Yes, all I want is for everyone to know that every property that is listed on the MLS has money that is the Buyers. In fact its the Buyers money anyway? Why give it away? Its insanity!

    Be happy you know we exist! But, at the very least tell the masses what you know already. Most everyone just doesn’t get it!…So Sad!

    Ray Pepper
    http://www.500Realty.net

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  9. 9
    Ben K says:

    Localism will never replace local / neighborhood blogs, two vastly different philosophies. Localism, at its heart is a real estate site driven by agents, loan officers, home inspectors,etc, so it’ll inevitably always have a real estate slant/bias/sales pitch. And, I’ll admit, the only benefit for me (albeit minute), is to drive visitors to my blog.

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  10. 10
    The Tim says:

    Ben, I’m not sure the force behind Localism agrees with your perspective. From their about page:

    Localism is the valued point of connection, a place of meaningful interaction. It’s where neighbors and local merchants share what’s happening in their community. It’s people collectively communicating the unique flavor and nuances of where they live, work, eat, and play.

    Localism is ‘Old-School’ in a New World portal. It’s reminiscent of an earlier day when people shopped where they lived, and everyone knew their butcher. Localism makes the world smaller and more personal. It reacquaints and re-establishes the lost bonds between neighbors. It revives and restores the relational elements of what neighborhoods used to be, and should be.

    Localism provides the environment where residents and business owners can create a micro-social network uniquely attuned to their individual communities. Together, they use multi-media to paint a canvas of local color and texture. Their Localism ‘Neighborpedia’ becomes an extension of who and what they are.

    Their flowery description of Localism sounds pretty much exactly like what neighborhood blogs are doing already.

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  11. 11
    budbrad says:

    “Pravda” …..LOL!

    Rate this comment: Thumb up 0

  12. 12
    TR @ WSB says:

    Thanks for the link etc. We are actually more than a “blog” – it’s in our name because that is how the site started and that is how our brand became known – but we are a commercial, fully advertising-supported, journalist-run local news site, and that’s why you found so much there. We average 10-11 reports a day, short and long, cover tons of local news ourselves (and as you noted, with contributor/reader help) from early morning through very late at night, and broke the half-million-monthly pageview milestone last month. (Would be more except that since we publish in blog format, most of our posts can be read without clicking to a second page like you have to do on newspaper etc. sites.) I haven’t checked out “Localism” yet but there is an avalanche currently of people trying to get into this game as aggregators or as what in the old-media business has the deadly acronym “UGC” — user-generated content — put up a site and say Hey! Come over here and write stuff so we can sell ads next to the stuff you write! Not gonna work. You can aggregate to your heart’s content, even government databases (like EveryBlock in Chicago), but you still need a human interpreter or two to data-mine and say THIS is the one restaurant closure notice you want to read … and to go to the community meetings (I’m writing up one from last night now) and say “here’s what was discussed that you should know about” .. and so on and so forth. (We have other sections too – lost/found pets, for example.) It will be fascinating to see who’s still left in a year. Some have already given it up, realizing it’s a better place for the indies to play.

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  13. 13
    graham st says:

    Contest #5: RainierValleyPost.blogspot.com vs. Localism: Rainier Valley

    http://rainiervalleypost.blogspot.com/ has hella posts by a knowlegable resident… Farmers market produce lists, events, local political issues

    Localism: http://localism.com/wa/seattle/rainier_valley
    Localism has the name Rainier Valley in it’s database… but nothing else

    Don’t look for this to be updated anytime soon as commissions in the valley amount to less than most other neighborhoods.

    Advantage: Not e

    http://localism.com/wa/seattle/rainier_valley

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  14. 14
    The Tim says:

    Tracy, I totally agree. I think that these “hyper local” everywhere-in-one-place sites are too late to the game. It was pretty difficult for me to even find a Seattle-area neighborhood that didn’t already have its own blog.

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  15. 15
    Ben K says:

    I can say flowery stuff about my blog, too, but that won’t make it so.

    Rate this comment: Thumb up 0

  16. 16
    The Tim says:

    Heh, I guess that’s my point, Ben.

    Rate this comment: Thumb up 0

  17. 17
    explorer says:

    As TR pointed out, there is a difference between journalism on a local level, and someone trying to cash in on others labor and goodwill.

    Trying to emulate the already well known community newspapers, many of them already with their own sites, does not seem feasible. Unless you are willing to put both feet in like TR and acutally produce content worth reading.

    The weakness of Blogs in general are their lack of discipline and objectivity. Sometimes that can be a strength too, but you have to back it up with being open minded.

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  18. 18
    Civil Servant says:

    Ray, you have thick skin and I respect that. Lest you think I’m just a screecher, I wanted you to know that your second post on this page presents you — and by association your company — in a much more coherent and professional light. I may continue to skip the posted comments, but I bear no ill will.

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  19. 19

    I checked the site out earlier this morning and found many problems with it. For one, my town was listed as both a neighborhood and a city. We are not a city. And I am concerned about the whole idea of “sponsoring neighborhoods” – realtors sponsor them, but how do they pick which one?
    I do think that it is somewhat better than other local blog sites because it is linked with Active Rain which has an enormouse SEO power. When I first started blogging I linked to Localism (it’s older version) and I instantly came up on the first page of Google. So if you are a neighborhood business/realtor/school etc. and want instant SEO recognition than it is a very good thing.

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  20. 20

    A couple of things:
    Ray, I’m glad you called me wonderful, but not sure that I agree that most agents are wonderful. Sure, some of them are kind, and generous, and honest, but I’ve also dealt with my share of lying scumbags.

    Re: Skyway blog- A couple of people get shot there, and nobody admits to living there. Real Estate agents call it West Hill, or Lakeridge, or Bryn Mawr, but most of the area is pretty nice and improving, and has the lowest price housing costs within a 15-20 minute drive to downtown Seattle or downtown Bellevue. There is a blog that includes Skyway, and the co-authors all live very close to Skyway..it’s rentonhipster.blogspot.com

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  21. 21
    Ben says:

    Ray,

    I implore you to answer the question that I have asked many times and others have asked you as well.

    Why don’t you start your own blog? If you are passionate about sending your message out, this will be the best way. It does not have to replace your commenting here, it can compliment it.

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  22. 22
    cutienoua says:

    To Ray:
    I will gladly skip your post,unfortunately it’s sooo long!

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  23. 23
    Ray Pepper says:

    Ben you will be happy to know the blog is under construction. A webdesigner that wants to promote his services offered to start one. The name of it is too harsh and I told him it needs to be “nicer”. However, I do not want to maintain it or have anything to do with it other then blogging. With 3 kids, a wife who works 4 nights a week in the ICU, and this company, I cannot take on any more projects.

    Ray Pepper
    http://www.500Realty.net

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  24. 24

    YOUR OWN WEB SITES ARE GREAT REPOSITORIES TOO

    I have three (3) web sites and I save key references and my articles there; its a great way to utilize history facts for future articles.

    My web sites get lots of hits too, but I still blog on several other web sites too. Sometimes my blogs [probably Tim’s too] get copied and pasted all over the world. Its cool.

    Thank God for the internet!

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  25. 25

    […] to create an attractive platform on which small businesses would spend their advertising dollars. Our review of Localism’s Seattle-area offerings concluded that the site amounted to little more than sales pitches from “hyperlocal” […]

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  26. 26
    Courtney says:

    By The Tim @ 1:

    Here’s another great example of Localism at its best: Shoreline

    Note the posts by Courtney Cooper. Barely any content, tons of links to her agency site, and a 145-word signature. If someone left comments like that on Seattle Bubble, I’d delete them as spam.

    At least the Shoreline page has five different authors. But the most recent post is still nearly three weeks old, and none of the stories seem like they would be all that interesting to someone living in Shoreline.

    PS Thanks:) LOL

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