HOAs as Hyperlocal Publishers?
Home owners associations would seem like natural publishers of hyperlocal news and information — especially where “many residents’ sense of community rarely extends beyond their own subdivisions, neighborhood schools and the crime and traffic problems closest to their homes,” as The Washington Post noted last week in an article on the failure of country-wide hyperlocal projects (including its own).
The Post reports, for instance, that many residents of the mega-“Broadlands” HOA are “hooked” on it, as well as on an independent site called the Brambletonian. The latter says it receives 7,000 monthly visitors. Both offer shopping and dining directories, resident forums, and community calendars for the swim team, etc.
Despite their potential, our experience with home owners associations as publishers has been challenging and we haven’t been able to consider them as possible partners for local publishers. Either they self-publish, with primitive results, or they rely on a handful of HOA-specific vendors that charge on a per-resident basis. These are often managed outside the community by companies that aren’t media-savvy and don’t sell much, if any, advertising — in part, because the majority of HOAs are too fragmented. They also don’t receive regular input from their members, and don’t have real editorial resources.
There are probably some good HOA sites, however. Companies such as eneighbors.com have worked to create a third-party involvement with associations. Its sponsored ads on Google read: “I switched because no one visited our HOA website.”