Spelunking equipment, climbing gear and snowshoes are Steve Sutorius’ life. That’s clear watching him as he peddles outdoor-sports merchandise in his shop, Wildernest, on this 10-mile-long jewel in Puget Sound just off the coast from Seattle.
Somewhat further down his list of priorities is his marketing strategy, which, for Wildernest, includes ads on the hyperlocal news site Inside Bainbridge, whose content includes such stories as the one about a woman who nearly rammed her car into a store on Winslow Way called Danger. (Gotta love small-town news.)
While such coverage might not win journalism prizes or bring the government to its knees, Inside Bainbridge “does a really good job of putting out local content, and I wanted to support another small business,” explains Sutorius. More to the point, the payoff for his business was considerable—and quick. Sales grew 15 percent in just the first month his ads ran, while clickthroughs on his store’s website spiked 60 percent. “This,” he says, “has been a cool partnership.”
Five miles away, Inside Bainbridge’s co-publisher Julie Hall considers the experience of operating the website over the last year and a half. In her home office, she pedals her stationary bike as she bangs out another local news item—at the same time she pedals hard to make a go of her site. “It’s personal for me,” she says. “When we started out, we didn’t know how quickly it would grow and how well it would be received.” The Chicago Tribune and Reuters have since republished some of her stories. And yet, the site’s long-term prospects remain anyone’s guess. Shrugs Hall, “We’re still figuring out the money end of it.”
The same goes for many of those who have thrown their hats into the hyperlocal movement.