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.
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…
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)
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
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 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.
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
Skyway is an unincorporated area between Renton and Seattle, with no local blog.
Placeholder page with one “neighbor” and three pictures of Skyway.
End of Update
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?”