The San Francisco Street Food Festival today brought together "micro-entrepreneurs, informal food vendors and renowned chefs" in a celebration of street food and the entrepreneurial spirit, both of which are alive and thriving in this town, even in the midst of (in fact, partly due to) a prolonged recession.
Many of our most enterprising food-cart operators were in attendance. Curtis Kimball, AKA, the crÃ¨me brÃ»lÃ©e man, was one of them. (Note: His vanilla crÃ¨me brÃ»lÃ©e is a bargain at $4.) Kimball, like a lot of these folks, is building up his business over Twitter, Facebook and other social networks.
Biz Stone's announcement the other day that Twitter will soon launch "a new feature that makes Twitter truly location-aware" came to mind when I was reflecting about how these hyper-local businesses are sprouting all over the city.
"A new API will allow developers to add latitude and longitude to any tweet," Stone noted. "Folks will need to activate this new feature by choice because it will be off by default, and the exact location data won't be stored for an extended period of time."
To me, this heralds an exciting moment for the future of hyper-local media. It doesn't take a rocket scientist or a master chef to imagine the business model. Targeted ads, coupons, rebates, and special offers of all kinds can be marketed via Twitter. Potential customers can be segmented by location, transforming them into qualified leads worth many multiples of, say, your average newspaper reader.
It's the business of media 101.
The trick for media entrepreneurs to make this work will be to build in the journalism layer behind the business model. In other words, first you need to do what people like Curtis the crÃ¨me brÃ»lÃ©e man does, and establish a viable business.
This does not necessarily, at an initial stage, imply the need to be a news and information operation, although since that is an ultimate objective (along with making money), it would be wise to lay the groundwork for developing that side of the company in the future.
But it would enough at the start to serve as an aggregator of the micro-entrepreneurs in a neighborhood, a clearing-house for them to get greater exposure as they build up their brands. Using geo-coded services like the new Twitter, it will also be simple to identify and contact bloggers and other content creators nearby to bulk up your user-generated content around this core.
Using the existing open-source, hyper-local code, it should not be difficult to layer in public record repositories, including weather and crime reports, as well as Flickr photos, Yelp reviews, and social media sources of every sort.
Finally, the big hire. Once you've got the basic money engine running, you could hire an honest-to-god, real professional journalist! This person can be your content curator, and the keeper of your operation's "voice." Come to think of it, I even know one who might be available... :)
Aug. 20 Newspapers Lose Out As MSNBC Snaps Up EveryBlock
Aug. 16 Twitter Speaks: How to Save Newspapers
July 13 OakBook Puts Hyper-Local Model to Work
July 7 EveryBlock Opens its Code, Seeks a Business Model