BackFence Launches Palo Alto Bay Area Site
Backfence.com, which recently purchased Dan Gillmor’s Bayosphere as a strategy for entering the Bay Area market, formally launched its first Bay Area site for Palo Alto with the hire of two former newspaper staffers, Daniel Payomo and Mark Loundy. Media maven Dan Gillmor continues blogging on the site.
Backfence has always been one of the more nicely put together sites in an increasingly competitive world of Internet companies combining user-generated content and local advertising. A recent redesign has made the site simpler to use, replacing many tabs with a kind of three-pronged navigation: “post, review, shop.”
Backfence, though slower to roll out than some of its competitors, has several things going for it: a hyperlocal strategy (limiting the geographic scope to very clear, local communities), a range of content types (not simply advertising) and, as I mentioned, a polished but not-too-slick design. The hyper-local strategy ensures a community identification that may speed adoption and make it preferred vs. larger entities. Also the cost structure of the company and its almost exclusive reliance, like other similar sites, on user-generated content gives it an advantage vs. traditional media.
Virtually all the social-directory sites are on angling for acquisition by some larger media company. And in that regard they’re on something of a collision course. This is yet another small business advertising opportunity and yet another classifieds marketplace. I’m a fan of Backfence, but the question is: how many of these sites (in addition to yellow pages and newspaper classifieds) can local markets support?
Greg Sterling is the founding principal of Sterling Market Intelligence, a consulting and research firm focused on online consumer and advertiser behavior and the relationship between the Internet and traditional media, with an emphasis on the local marketplace.