Veteran blogger John Hiler of Corante and Microcontent News has launched a city events guide in blog form for New Yorkers, CityBlogs: New York. The site and e-newsletter focus (initially) on event listings for cinema, book readings and talks.
Hiler explains the concept this post, Bringing the Power of Blogs to a City Near You: “I started devouring the local listings guides to find more events: the Village Voice listings, the Time Out NY events calendar, the New Yorker’s Goings On About Town. I found the hundreds of events in the listings overwhelming: what I really wanted was someone to find the most interesting events and tell me which ones to go to. I wanted that someone to be an expert in their field. And I wanted that someone to cover niche categories that just weren’t in the local event listings: jazz jam sessions in the Village, kickboxing matches in Queens, or Haitian dance classes near Union Square.”
He also defines the the advantages of blogs over local listings:
• Personality versus Dry Descriptions
• Useful Recommendations versus Overwhelming Comprehensiveness
• Readable by Anyone versus Accessible Only to Experts
• Niche Coverage versus Mainstream Coverage
• Local Stringers versus No Followups
“This is what Jeff Jarvis calls the killer app of weblogs: local coverage of events,” Hiler writes. “Bloggers can provide the sort of distributed coverage of local events that newspapers can’t even dream of.” True. This is an exciting venture, one well worth watching. And Hiler definitely has a handle on a successful value proposition — niche events listings and coverage.
As veterans of the city guide — we launched Citysearch’s site in Dallas, and worked on several newspaper and magazine events guides — we have a few thoughts on what Hiler needs to succeed:
• Get collaborative: Hiler will need a cartel expert bloggers that he can depend upon to really make this work. He should consider making each blog — cinema, books, talks, etc. — run by about 3-5 bloggers. In a city like New York, there’s now way any one person can effectively cover a given scene. Hiler should also consider dedicating a blogger to fact-checking, which is critical to events guides.
• Allow comments: Currently the NYC blogs do not allow for comments. It doesn’t matter how expert you are on any niche scene, there’s always room for others thoughts, tips and opinions.
• Provide listing feeds: Since you probably won’t have a decent marketing budget, you’ll want to use all the viral tools in the box. RSS feeds will allow other blogs and sites showcase your event recommendations on their sites. (We never really understood why the excellent Corante blogs, such as Blogging News and Idea Flow don’t have RSS feeds. What’s up John?)
• Make the content open source: As noted in a previous post, you could increase the exposure of your content, by allowing others to repurpose and distribute the content.
• Personality needs a face: None of the blogs on this site are currently designed so that it is clearly apparent who the author is. For example, on the cinema blog, there is nothing to suggest that John Hiler is the author. The items just say, posted by John. Personality, as Hiler suggests, is critical to the success of this blog. But personality needs an explicit face. Put more information about the blogger in the “About this Blog” section.
Apparently, the biz model for this site will be revealed by John soon. Knowing John, he probably has some innovative ideas.