TownMe: A ‘Next Gen Local Wiki’ & More

Screenwerk by Greg Sterling

TownMe’s Elad Gil asked me the question I always get asked and which I dread: What do you see out there in local that’s really interesting?  After talking to TownMe I would add his site to the list.

A mix of data crawled from the Internet and user-generated content, Elad characterized TownMe as a kind of “next generation” wiki for local. The site describes its mission as follows: “TownMe’s mission is to bring all the world’s communities and local information online.”

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TownMe has licensed one of the commercial databases and so has the directory listings and local search capabilities that one would expect, effectively “table stakes” in the local segment:

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At first glance you might be tempted to dismiss this as another “me too” local directory or search site but there are some very interesting things going on here if you poke around and look more closely.

The site’s founders are pulling together volumes of data from lots of places online. For example, the site has built pages and tools on top of Census data, as well as from other sources, such as Twitter. Everyblock is really the only other site that is using public data like this.

Perhaps the most amusing of these tools is the “Yuppie locator,” which literally maps US Census data to neighborhoods:

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There’s also general demographic and census data presented for every state and city in the US:

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On a more “practical” level, TownMe has built helpful content pages that allow users to browse top lists by category. It has also created a considerable number of very specific pages and lists that will likely mirror search queries (”Best Indian in Mission, San Francisco“), with lots of SEO value:

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The site isn’t perfect and the founders acknowledge that. What’s interesting is the potential breadth of TownMe and the mix of a wiki, user-generated content approach with data that are crawled and organized by the internal team. Right now monetization is through Google AdSense. Over time Gil, a former Google employee, says he has some interesting ideas about monetization that they will implement, though he was reluctant to discuss what those were.

Pigeonholing TownMe is not easy. It’s not exactly a local search engine, nor is it really a directory site. Not is it a local news and events site. It’s not American Towns or Topix, Zvents, Everyblock, Yelp or Yellowpages.com. Rather its an amalgam, in a way, of elements of all of them.

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