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What Makes For Local


As you grow up, the world or what's "out there" seems to grow and expand as you become more aware.  As a young baby, your house seems like that there is and there are still areas that seem strange and alien to you.  With time, you start to learn about the street you live on and the people around there.  You slowly start to explore the local neighborhood maybe with the help of a new bicycle or skateboard as you get older.  Eventually, you're old enough to actually drive and then your idea of local expands accordingly.  You can drive to the beach or mountains.  You can go on road trips to other cities, states, or even countries if you're so inclined.  That's just the beginning.  There's a whole world out there with ever expounding boundaries.  This begs the questions...what exactly is local?  Let's dig a little deeper and figure out how we view it with the Zipper Local News app for iTunes and Android smart phones.

The definition of local was critical in our design of the Zipper app.  Too wide a net and it ceases to be local while narrow a net, and it ceases to be useful.  Where exactly was that Goldilocks region of local in terms of news and information that will be valuable and by definition of region, topical to you.  There in lies the challenge.  A great definition of local as it pertains to valuable information.  We started with the opposite approach to narrow our range...what would not be useful as a regional range and to a great extent, what is already well-covered with other online and smart phone sites and apps.  Let's say I live in Fort Worth, Texas.  What's local?  We'll go down the scale till we find a nice starting point.  Obviously, world and national news is way to broad and there are plenty of venues available for this information both in terms of traditional news outlets which are online (think Reuters or AP) or recent additions such as Twitter which have no geographic boundary at all.  What about State news?  Probably still too broad.  Sticking with our Fort Worth example, news from Houston or San Antonio doesn't really pertain to me and if it's so big, I will catch it on my other traditional news outlets.  This probably still true for regional news such as North Texas or even Panhandle information.  What about City?  Is that a good fit for the cap of our information source and coverage.  Now we're entering that gray area.  On one hand, bigger news from the other side of Ft Worth might be of interest but a lot of smaller stories might as well be in Houston.  This is where we need to start at least.  Can we refine our definition of local even further and how would we do that?

What about zip codes.  Zip codes are a pretty handy way to filter for local information and the structure is already existing but there are some issues.  For one thing, you may live right on the border of two zip codes.  This means that information right across the street could be hidden from you.  That's not going to work .  In the end, we decided to go with a straight distance radius to determine local so we can avoid this zip code issue.  We're still playing with what radius defines local but you can estimate between 30 and 60 miles.  In future upgrades, we're looking at the ability of the user to set what this radius of local will be.  Every locale's sense of locality is different.  If you're in a very densely populated area like downtown New York, local may be a couple of blocks.  If you're way out in the corn fields of Indiana, local may stretch for 100 miles.  Your high school may draw from miles around and that obviously is a good measure of the word local. 

At the bottom end of our definition, we wanted to jump beyond the restrictions of your social networks which aren't locality driven but never the less, very restrictive on your access to truly local news and gossip.  In this respect, there's no miminum cap for local but one that involves everyone providing and accessing information within the maximum cap of what defines local mentioned above.  Ultimately, local is a moving target and indeed, we plan to move along side it as the Zipper is refined based on our audience's view of valuable local news and local gossip.



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