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Placeblogs Cast A Narrow Net

Local information is becoming a higher priority online.


SENSE OF PLACE

10 best placeblogs, per Placeblogger
1 Baristanet,
Montclair, N.J.
2 Edhat,
Santa Barbara, Calif.
3 Fresno Famous,
Fresno, Calif.
4 Westport Now,
Westport, Conn.
5 ChiTown Daily News,
Chicago
6 New Haven Independent,
New Haven, Conn.
7 Gotham Gazette,
New York
8 Philly Future,
Philadelphia
9 MNSpeak,
Minneapolis/St. Paul
10 Duke City Fix,
Albuquerque, N.M.

Count this as the first buzzword of 2007: placeblogs.

Local search will be big this year, as companies work on an area in which the Internet has never been very helpful. The Internet today is mostly location-neutral--it doesn't know or care where you live.

The latest entrant is Placeblogger, a guide to blogs focused on a neighborhood, city, or region. The site describes placeblogs as "watercoolers for local discussion, a place to find out where to eat or a reliable plumber, or talk about the news of the day. On occasion, placebloggers break news." Co-founder Lisa Williams writes a placeblog, H2Otown, for Watertown, Mass.

Other companies tackle local information on the Internet in different ways. Here are a few:

Ask.com earned a spot on blog TechCrunch's "Web 2.0 Companies I Couldn't Live Without," thanks to a tool for giving directions to multiple points and another that lets you write on a map.

Of course, Google has an offering, through Google Maps. It provides local business listings, sometimes with "more info" links that can include reviews aggregated from places like Yelp.com and Judy's Book. For gee-whiz appeal, click the "call" link next to a business, enter your phone number, and Google places a call to the business and connects you. Neat. Though how hard is it to dial?

Yelp offers local business reviews and addresses a chief liability of online reviews: Who's doing the reviewing? Yelp lets you check all reviews by that person.

ParkWhiz lets you search for parking options. Its ambition is to create a market for people to rent their driveways or garages in hot markets. It's a service that begs for a mobile option.

The Internet's always been the place to go for information on Tunisia or Mars, but the scoop on good local pizza has been sparse. Newspapers are ramping up their hyperlocal coverage, but bloggers' passion could give them an edge. This is the year to get it right.

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