Backfence Faces Setback

Hyperlocal destination site Backfence has lost its CEO and co-founder Susan DeFife due to a failure to see eye-to-eye with the board of directors. The move also comes amidst a round of layoffs in that axed off two thirds of the company.

This is an unfortunate setback, given the company's growth over the last 18 months from its original D.C. area community sites, to its west coast expansion and many Bay Area site launches (it now totals 13 sites in D.C., Chicago and Bay Area). In some ways the question over whether or not a local destination strategy is sustainable could be gleaned from Backfence's success metrics, as it has been a pioneer in this space.

Its apparent cash flow problems and layoffs could be telling, and a more sustainable hyperlocal strategy could be in an aggregation model like that of the newly launched Placeblogger. Time will tell if this is the case.

Meanwhile The Seattle Times ran a column this week by Danny Westneat that argued hyper-local reporting (i.e. school box scores, police blotters, etc.), though not very glamorous, can be an important point of differentiation that can help small papers maintain a local edge on online competition such as news aggregators.

Newspaper industry expert and Editor and Publisher contributor Steve Outing also encourages hyperlocal content develoment in his own list of recomendations to local newspapers.