Monday, December 28, 2009

Local Communities: The Last Frontier

By Andy Santamaria

Just like the Gold Rush in 1800's, we had a similar rush to seize certain markets online at the turn of the century. Out of the dust emerged giants like Google, Wikipedia, and Facebook. Then we started to see smaller markets/niches being grabbed and expanding exponentially. If you were the first person to start a blog on technology and gadgets, you got a little attention. If you were very good and didn't sleep, you may have made a name for yourself like Gizmodo or Engadget.

The mass land grab is over.
Starting a blog is extremely hard now. Getting noticed by the masses for your niche is laughable. Steve Rubel explains why here. Want to start a blog/video podcast on wine? Gary will crush you. How about giving presentations? That's pretty unique, right? Nope, Garr Reynolds is the best voice of authority and he got a book deal out of it. Ok, so maybe you want to do something extremely obscure like being a professional home-office organizer? Yeah, no. Brandi Kajino has already tapped that niche and has aligned herself with great startups like Evernote.

You aren't going to beat Gary at wine podcasting. What if you live in a great area for local brewing? Though I don't know much about brewing, I'd argue that The Midwest is a great area for it. And so we begin, what may be, one of the final onlne land-grabs.

Revenge of the Local Celebrity.
Find a niche that is significant to your community. What if you had a blog/podcast where you interviewed, tasted, and reviewed ONLY local breweries in Minnesota (OK, maybe Wisconsin too..)? I'd be that if you had the right motivation, talent, and persistance, you could quickly become the voice of reason in Minneapolis. Bars and breweries would flock to your site and beg you to drink their beer. Doesn't sound that bad, right?

Get Going.
What's even better is that Minneapolis is virtually untouched right now for powerful online niches. It's not like you're in SF or NYC where they already have caught on to this. Now is the best time to start something that you've always wanted. Involve your community and be ready for the long road ahead. I've got a few projects that I'm starting where I plan to do exactly what I've described above.

I'm not going to give out that many examples because they are easy to come up with. What are you into? What do you read for fun? What's your favorite type of show? Find the big fish that has a national audience and make your own version significant to Minnesota, or better yet, Minneapolis.

How about you? Are you going to start the next design blog that critiques local artists? The next bakery blog that covers the best and freshest bread in the city? I'd love to know. Email me.

Andy Santamaria is a journalism student at the University of Minnesota. His blog mainly covers creative businesses in the Twin Cities. He also writes about new media, advertising and technology. Follow him on Twitter, @andysantamaria

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