Outside.in, the Brooklyn-based “place-blogging” site (or “hyper-local news site”, take your pick) has raised a $3 million round and hired a CEO — Mark Josephson, the former president of ad network operator Seevast.
Mark takes the place of co-founder Steven Johnson, who’s staying on as executive chairman. Investors in the round, which Steven is describing as an “A+” round, include earlier investors such as Union Square Ventures and Betaworks and angels like George Crowley. One new investor: The New York City Investment Fund. The company has now raised about $5.4 million in the last year.
Outside.in is at an interesting crossroads: Connecting people based on geography, via a service funded by local advertisers, is a no-brainer for the Web. But no one’s been able to make it work yet, and there have been some high-profile flame-outs. Outside.in tries to tackle the problem by aggregating as much stuff — whether use-gen or professionally created — as it can, and hoping that a community coalesces around that. And now that Mark’s on board, they’re ramping up efforts to generate revenue, too — either by selling ads on the site, or by exporting the site’s info to other places, and grabbing a cut of their sales.
Meanwhile they’re still tinkering with interesting tools, services, etc, many of which will work behind the scenes — for instance, there’s an analytics tool that will be interesting for local bloggers and publishers. One new service that users will be able to play with is “Radar”, which is supposed to work like a Facebook newsfeed, but which can provide info about what’s happening within a 1,000-foot radius around you. It’s in alpha now, but we have 25 invites to give away, but only for New Yorkers: Nothing personal, but the service isn’t setup anywhere else yet. Ping [email protected] to sign up.
We’ve only played with Radar for a bit, and find it intriguing: We’re at least as interested in learning what our neighbours are up to as we are our Facebook “friends” — many of whom we’ve never met and never will. And it will get much more interesting in the next few weeks, when it starts incorporating feeds from other sources, like Twitter, which could make it quite powerful. For now you have to update your status via a window on the Radar page, which means that you’ve got yet more work to do if you want to alert your block about what you had for breakfast.
Our bigger concern about Radar is our larger concern about Outside.In — whenever we use it, we expect to learn a whole lot more about what’s going on around us than we do. You can’t get much more blog-centric than our stretch of Brooklyn (though Outside.In has named nearby Clinton Hill as the bloggiest neighbourhood in the country), so when we check in we figure we’ll be overwhelmed with local news, or at least local…something.
But mainly we see a lot of stuff posted by a couple of real estate blogs we already like (Curbed and Brownstoner), and a handful of excellent semi-pro blogs we’ve seen before (we’re very partial to The Gowanus Lounge). We don’t need an aggregator to find those sources for us; we want one that will find cool stuff from people who don’t blog for a living. Maybe they’re out there, and Radar will eventually help us find them. But if it can’t find those folks in Brooklyn, we worry that it’s going to be next-to-impossible to find good stuff in other parts of the country, where folks aren’t nearly as wired and self-involved.
On the plus side, it took us about minute on Radar to figure out that we lived a block away from Outside.in co-founder John Geraci. We look forward to having a drink with him soon — and blogging about it afterward.
Disclosure: SAI Chairman Kevin Ryan is on the board of the New York City Investment Fund.