Hyperlocal meets hyperlawers at The Washington Post

June 4, 2008

loudounextra2.JPGThe Wall Street Journal ran a story by Russell Adams on Wednesday about how The Washington Post’s foray into “hyper-local journalism” in Loudoun County, Virginia, didn’t quite work out.

The main points are here:

For believers in the power of rigorous local coverage to help save newspapers, the Washington Post’s launch of LoudounExtra.com last July was a potentially industry-defining event. It paired a journalistic powerhouse with a dream team of Internet geeks to build a virtual town square for one of Virginia’s and the nation’s most-affluent and fastest-growing counties.

Almost a year later, however, the Web site is still searching for an audience. Its chief architect has left for another venture in Las Vegas, and his team went with him. And while Post executives say they remain committed to providing so-called hyperlocal news coverage, they are re-evaluating their approach.

Adams wrote that LoudounExtra.com was supposed to be a showcase for incredibly local coverage, with a big component of that being so-called “user generated content.” The idea is that more people will show up (good for advertisers) because they are getting news about their own backyard and at the same time can shape that news by submitting blog entries, photos and the like.

Adams noted Loudoun County’s lack of a cohesive identification, and pointed out some situations where the Post could have given some love to the site in certain key news situations, but what caught our eye was this:

Several media analysts agreed LoudounExtra.com doesn’t do enough to engage the community. Hyperlocal sites range from the fully service-oriented — filled with databases, calendars and news — to repositories for blogs, commentary, photos and video from visitors to the site.But there were hazards involved in putting an autonomous team of outsiders in charge of new digital initiatives at a major media company. Mr. [Rob] Curley says his team had been developing online tools to funnel Loudoun County-related video and photos to the site from other sites like YouTube, Facebook and Flickr, but couldn’t get approval from the Post’s legal team to launch the application. According to Mr. Brady, the legal team voiced concerns about who had legal claim to the content of those sites.

And we say that newsrooms are slow to adapt!

(Photo: Courtesy of Washingtonpost.com)

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