If you’re wondering where your under-30 readership or viewership has gone, here’s one answer: It’s gone out for the evening to have a good time. And it probably didn’t find your website, newspaper, or TV station particularly helpful in deciding where to go — because it’s not just a matter of which band is playing at which bar. It’s a matter of which friends are going to be there.
For several years now, the proverbial “two smart guys in a garage” — Dennis Crowley and Alex Rainert — have been working on a service called Dodgeball.com that takes the concept of “hyperlocal” to the extreme. Dodgeball helps twentysomethings get together for a good time — local people going out for the evening in local places. It uses the Web and mobile SMS — “short message service” (text messaging) over cellphones. The tool lets a circle of friends communicate and get together in physical space, in real time. It’s like Friendster plus venue directories plus ad hoc mailing lists with a brilliant mobile phone twist.
Now Google has acquired Dodgeball.com, giving it yet another powerful tool in its drive toward local relevancy and providing another data input to Google’s ability to profile consumers.
Dodgeball is built around an analysis of the needs of twentysomethings, crossed with an understanding of the power of technology. If you’re involved in one of those “where did our readers go?” teams that so many newspapers are putting together these days, ask yourself: Is that how we’re approaching the problem? In order to connect with Generation Y, local media need to do more than figure out how to push headlines and classified ads into cell phones.