Congratulations to Conor White-Sullivan and the team at Localocracy, which became a recent acquisition of the Huffington Post, as reported by Kara Swisher on WSJ’s AllThingsD. Arianna Huffington said, “[Conor and team are] pioneers in using the web to empower citizens to improve their towns, and their unique vision and talents will enable us to deepen our users’ engagement with our sites.”
This is further evidence of the “neighbor connect” online space heating up. In the past year, I’m aware of at least two dozen significant startups focused on facilitating conversation among people who live near each other. Some, like Localocracy, aim at niches (local ballot issues and related), while others intend to promote a general sense of community.
Strong on Tech, Weak on Traction
Huffington Post/AOL joins MSNBC.com, which acquired EveryBlock.com last year, in this space, as well as many other new VC-backed and boot-strapped entrants. Most startups in this area appear to be strong on tech and weak on traction. That is, they can crank out the code, but few people actually show up and use their product. To make matters worse, many attempt to open up everywhere all at once. As a friend said, “A mile wide and an inch deep.”
Front Porch Forum is an established leader in this space, with amazing traction in our state, Vermont. More than half of our primary city participates. In another FPF town, 75 percent of members post — much higher than the 1-10 percent seen on many social sites. And the member success stories flow through FPF faster than we can write them down. People use FPF to reduce crime, find jobs, give away baby gear, reunite with lost pets, recommend roofers, debate ballot measures, call city hall on the carpet, and much more.
With our new web application recently launched, we look forward to bringing Front Porch Forum to communities far and wide.
A version of this story first appeared on the Front Porch Forum blog.