Outside.in releasing Radar, the Facebook Feed of local news

Local news and content site Outside.in is launching a tool this week called Radar, which filters news based on both distance and relevance to better zero in on local news that people will find personally meaningful.

Outside.in is a local site that’s trying to succeed where former competitors Judy’s Book and Backfence failed. Such sites, which pull in news, blog postings, commentary and other content from local sites, haven’t really taken off for a number of reasons, including having too little content and returning news that doesn’t mean anything to you (example: football scores from a highschool that’s nowhere near you).

Radar, the new tool, is a personal portal that returns content based on levels of proximity to your location. It pulls in news in a timeline that looks very similar to Facebook’s Feed, but is also split into three sections determined by geographical distance.

This may mean, for example, news by my block, news by neighborhood and news for the whole city. However, the categories aren’t set in stone, because people in a different area — a suburb of Kansas City, for instance — might have a very different population density, and want return news according to county or quarter.
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The idea is to simultaneously give you as much local news as possible, while also filtering out the really irrelevant parts. For instance, while I might care about construction on my own street, I really don’t care about construction going on a few blocks away. So with Radar, I’ll get that news for my street, while the neighborhood view will filter out all the construction and instead tell me about the film showing in the local park or a blog post about a new restaurant opening.

Outside.in is moving in the right direction for their content — they’ve got a clean, easy to navigate site and it looks like they’re doing a good job of focusing in on meaningful local content, with tools like Radar. However, unless you live in a city like New York or San Francisco or in a particularly active community, it can still be difficult to find enough content to make the site useful.

The site’s co-founder, John Geraci, thinks that’s changing quickly. Sites like Judy’s Book failed because they were too early, he says. “There wasn’t enough of the Web 2.0, “everyone is an author thing happening then,” he says. “But now journalists are on the web, every newspaper has an RSS feed, and there’s more stuff to work with.”

In addition, the site is thinking about tying in with other services. For example, they might let Twitter feeds from community members come up in the feed, in effect letting entire communities Twitter to each other.

I’ll have more later this week on another local site, Topix, which has a different idea of how to handle local news.


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