The Future of Local Discovery is About the Story, Not the Place

Did I say the future? I mean the now.

“Local” discovery in our books has historically been highly focused on optimizing for the right category, address, keywords, location, etc. What are people searching for in San Francisco? Make a page for it!

But which one of these descriptions of the same place below is more powerful?:

  1. The absolute best lazy Saturday people-watching in the city, with a drop-dead gorgeous view to boot.
  2. Crissy Field

It’s not the name of the place that captivates us (usually) but the story behind it; The history, the experience, the emotional connection.

Here’s a few examples of local-focused products getting it *very* right:


Sosh is a local app (and website) that lists its local spots as a thing to do or an experience first, with the venue name underneath it.  Their writers are fantastic at coming up with catchy experiences and headlines.

This isn’t just Hotel Biron and Elisa’s Hot Tubs and Massage, it’s Paris in San Francisco and a Secret Outdoor Hot Tub:

sosh1sml sosh3sml

I will be doing both of these things this weekend.

Airbnb Neighborhood Guides

In print! This content isn’t made for search engines (best restaurants in san francisco, best hotels in san francisco, best sushi in san francisco). It’s made for creative San Franciscans. Best place you’d rather keep a secret? What? Yes!


Google Field Trip

As you walk your phone alerts you to interesting places and stories nearby.  In my walk from the office to the train the other day I learned that there was a huge fire in 1950 in the building where a local staple Italian restaurant is. I could visualize flames billowing out of the windows because I was looking right at that picture on my phone as I walked by.  It’s like looking straight into history.


On the next block I learned of a new bar around the corner and the stories of its “donut holes, on-fire cocktails, and a sort of Texas saloon-ish interior with reclaimed wood and giant mirrors on the ceiling.” By the time you’ve read this I’ll already be knee-deep in donuts and giddying up on fire. Believe it.

The cover image on this post is SOMA’s pretty little South Park. I just had lunch with a client in that dirt mound on the right and SEOgadget’s San Francisco office is two blocks to the left. An image like this with the story of how British immigrant George Gordon designed it in 1865 as one of San Francisco’s elite neighborhoods popped up in my Field Trip today, and isn’t that just perfect, SEOgadget SF being a British-born company and all. #Heartstrings.

There’s a second layer to Field Trip, in that the content is aggregated feeds from places like OpenBuildings and Thrillist and local-focused gems like For 91 Days. Want to optimize for it? Good luck. People control the backend. What does that mean? You have to have unique, valuable, high quality content. :)

This is the way of local – I guarantee it.

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One thought on “The Future of Local Discovery is About the Story, Not the Place

  1. Alexandra Petean-Nicola says:

    The story and what we read and hear about a certain place is what determines us to go. Because we want to have the same experience too. A boring text with no feeling ain’t going to make nobody go somewhere new.

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