Betting hyper-local

Fisher Communications has pumped $1.5 million into Bellevue’s DataSphere Corporation placing a not-unsubstantial bet on the company’s hyperlocal neighborhood website platforms.DataSphere

Fisher rolled these micro sites out a couple of months ago locally as a DataSphere customer, but now has an interest in all the markets they serve – some with a Fisher presence, thus providing for some nice branding and promotional synergies, and some not.

It’s a small deal, but interesting in that it seems to indicate that Fisher feels strongly enough about DataSphere’s product to go beyond just being a customer. I find it interesting because in these lean times, the only possible way to wrench cash out of any media company’s icy grip is with the promise of a new revenue stream.

Monetizing content is a nightmare, but Fisher must think DataSphere has the model right. The sites are super simple, the content is provided by citizen journalists (i.e. free) or in markets where they overlay, by Fisher reporters whose incremental costs are further reduced by this repurposing of their production.

With free content, simple designs and an automated back end process in place, perhaps a brood of equally icy-fisted small time local real estate agents, retailers and mom-and-pop service providers can produce enough pay to play. We’ll see.

Obviously, this will be a volume business with lots of neighborhood sites required to produce substantial revenues – but if it can make a profit – any profit – it’s a win. Any landing you can walk away from is a good one.