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NEW YORK, Oct. 1, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- While corporate-run hyperlocal networks like AOL's Patch struggle to find their footing, many small independent publishers thrive, relying on low overhead, local relationships and raw entrepreneurial passion to succeed. However, even though these independently owned brands enjoy entrepreneurial autonomy, it does not mean that they are operating alone. The key to success for many of them: working together.
"2013 has been my best year so far," said Mike Ragsdale, one of TownWizard's local partners, a hyperlocal publisher in the small town of Santa Rosa Beach, Florida. His local site, 30A.com, has over 245,000 Facebook fans and annual revenue over $500,000. Ragsdale works from home – or his local beach – and has no full-time employees.
LION Publishers, TownWizard, and Nextdoor are several recent publishing success stories that enable individuals to take ownership of their hyper-local content while operating within supported networks.
LION Publishers (Local Independent Online News) (www.lionpublishers.com) is a group of 100 independent news publishers who have banded together to share information. "Patch is failing not because local news isn't a solid business, but because they're not local," said Dylan Smith, Editor and Publisher of TucsonSentinel.com and Chairman of LION Publishers.
Ragsdale's 30A.com is one of over 100 partners of TownWizard (www.TownWizard.com), a passionate group of independent hyperlocal publishers spanning 10 countries and six continents – including locations from Charlotte, North Carolina, to Yellowknife, Canada perched on the Arctic Circle, to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Collectively, TownWizard partner guides have over 400,000 iPhone and Android app downloads.
"TownWizard partners share knowledge and help each other succeed," said David Rutges, a TownWizard partner who manages GoudAgenda, a local guide in Gouda, Netherlands. "This community is something independent publishers often miss out on."
"TownWizard gave me the opportunity to bring something unique to Charlotte that everyone can enjoy and find useful," said Fabian Crespin, owner of TownWizard partner site CharlotteSpotlight. Crespin says there is middle ground between a large corporate bureaucracy running the show and independent publishers being isolated. TownWizard partners are not only a collection of publishers, they are a group of diverse entrepreneurs and community enthusiasts from around the globe supporting each other and using TownWizard's technology, personal relationships and expertise to succeed. TownWizard's active partner community includes peer-to-peer mentoring, a partner advisory group, and live training sessions.
Nextdoor (www.nextdoor.com) – a private social network service for serving nearly 20,000 neighborhoods – is another company engaging users at the hyperlocal level. Like TownWizard, Nextdoor provides the platform for users, but allows flexibility for individual communities to build private pages and define themselves how they see fit. Nextdoor user Tuscan Knox touts the service for his Austin, Texas neighborhood: "It is amazing how the simple tools and features of Nextdoor have really brought this neighborhood together."
TownWizard partners help communities bring an authentically local perspective to their towns.
"I call 100 percent of my own shots locally, but TownWizard provides everything I need on the backend," said Ragsdale. "A lot of independent hyperlocal publishers have websites, but TownWizard provides an iPhone app, an Android app, companion website, marketing templates, regular conference call collaborations with other TownWizard publishers, and access to industry experts."
Ragsdale said that most independent hyperlocal publishers do not have the resources to develop their own custom app from scratch.
"Part of the key to hyperlocal success is maintaining low overhead and not spending too much before you see real results," said Ragsdale. "If you don't have a native smart phone app, chances are you can't afford to build one and you're already falling behind," said Ragsdale. "It's not just about the content being delivered in a mobile-friendly format; it's about the extra ad inventory that each app platform provides."
Ragsdale said that's where the magic of TownWizard's $249 per month price tag becomes evident.
"Part of the key to hyperlocal success is maintaining low overhead and not spending too much before you see real results," said Ragsdale. "Where else can you get a website, native iPhone app, native Android app, marketing templates and a passionate peer support system for $249?"
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