Politico, Newschannel 8, and WJLA TV Parent company, Allbritton Communications, has announced that it is jumping into local media here in the Washington DC metro area. Planned for launch next spring, the yet unnamed site hopes to leverage social web technology to lure audiences who have become disenchanted with traditional media. They also hope replicate the success of the reportedly profitable Politico.
So is this a game changer for local media in the Washington area? The New Republic’s website, TNR.com, who originally broke the story, framed this as a direct challenge to the Washington Post. But as more local TV stations place greater emphasis on their web presence, this “local Politico” will pose a challenge to TV stations as well. So I asked Twitter the following:
HEY DC PEEPS!! what are your thoughts on Politico’s foray into the online local news space??
Predictably, there was no shortage of opinion. Here are just a few.
@newmediajim Considering WP’s gestapo tact on the opinion of their own journalists, is Jim Brady prepared to get out of the box? We’ll see.
@newmediajim I would subscribe, listen to POLITICO interviews on WTOP and they appeal to me. Like my news on the go.
@newmediajim Means that the future is here. If they do as good a job as they did with Politico, the WaPo should be worried.
Just got this WAPO email re: redesign of their local news site. 1 day aftr Politico scare, coincidence? http://twurl.nl/k80fr7
Jim Brady At The Helm
Jim Brady, former WashingtonPost.com editor, will oversee a staff of 50 at the operation. In his presentation this past week at an Online News Association confab, entitled – Mobile: The Future is Now – Brady may have betrayed the strategy of the new site. I suspect there will be a very strong emphasis on mobile apps and geolocation, which makes sense. Mobile strategy is timely. ComScore data indicates daily mobile news consumption has more than doubled in the past year. And if he believes what he preaches, not only will he staff the newsroom well, but he’ll bring on a strong mobile app development team. I also suspect that these mobile apps will be bi-directional, meaning users will be able to consume stories and upload their own content to the site. Another interesting data point from a Universal McCann study shows that 53% of smartphone users are clicking on mobile ads.
Catalyst For Change
So now that the story is out, it will be interesting to see how other local media respond. Competition is good, and hopefully better multimedia/online journalism should result from this. This could be a catalyst for great change for local media in the DC metro area. Will this new site embrace social tools and encourage networked journalism, crowdsourcing, hyperlocal news? While all of that “webby goodness” appeals to the web 2.0 evangelists, it’s noteworthy and encouraging to this media worker that, according to this NY Times piece, Allbritton plans on paying competitive, large market newspaper salaries for seasoned pros.
Ultimately, a site like this will live or die on how it serves the needs of the local community. So assembled readers, what is it that will make a site like this work, for the publisher and the community. Why have so many other hyperlocal, local web plays failed? What would you like to see from a local web news provider? Please discuss in the comments below!