Two years ago I wrote a short blurb entitled, “Does Local Matter?” in which I provocatively questioned the future relevance of the Local network component in the overhyped buzzwords of Social / Local / Mobile.
We even jumped on the bandwagon by launching a tax-optimizing holding vehicle called SoLoMoCo to focus on this fad.
So by questioning one of the three pillars of enlightenment at the time, Local, I intended to instigate a somewhat rhetorical debate, albeit not without basis. The world was becoming flat, the internet was leveling the playing field and lowering the entry barriers for innovation from more corners of the globe than ever before. Facebook and LinkedIn were demonstrating explosive adoption rates, allowing former elementary school classmates to catch up like they were still neighbors. Standard broadband internet plans in most developed countries (the U.S. embarrassingly trailing in this regard) offered unlimited free calling practically worldwide.
Rumors of Local’s death were greatly exaggerated
Well nowadays it appears that my provocative question was essentially short-sighted rhetoric. Because for me, the jury is still out.
I originally thought that social networks rendered local networks irrelevant. Now, it almost feels like the reverse could be true. Are local networks gaining traction at the expense of social networks?
Take the sudden expansion of Nextdoor, which recently raised another $60m in venture funding. Nextdoor’s ambition is predicated on the simple premise that we should be just as close, and our interactions should be just as rich, with the people around us as are those with our Facebook friends in distant cities. Reaching already one in seven American neighborhoods, their product facilitates interaction among neighbors on a variety of topics, from the best local babysitter, or a Halloween trick-or-treat map, to neighborhood safety.
The concept of local has of course always been important to us (local weather, local news, etc.). The rise of the internet and the flattening of the world, however, made monetizing local more challenging. The collapse of the mid-market news business underscored this.
Perhaps the difference today compared to two years ago is that now ubiquitous smartphone penetration has ushered in the relevance of local networks. Local networks enhance our lives by improving discovery and traceability of people and things in our immediate vicinity. They allow us to indulge further than before
Heck, even a new word, locavore, has become part of our lexicon. You can’t even order shitake mushrooms out of season in some circles without risking snide remarks about your carbon footprint from vegan b.c.b.g. dining companions. (If you haven’t seen it yet, I recommend this clip from Portlandia, “Is the chicken local?” mocking how important Local has become to us).
See you at the Farmers market on Sunday…