The newspaper industry took its latest step into the Web 2.0 world today as WashingtonPost.com unveiled a widget that lets apartment hunters search for homes by their vicinity to Metro stations.
The Widget is available on Washingtonpost.com as well as in the iGoogle widget directory. It will also be distributed on the Google content network. This is approximately the 25th widget launched by WashingtonPost.com since it started creating them about 18 months ago.
Apartment hunters in the Washington Metro area can use the widget, which is being sponsored exclusively by residential real estate company The Bozzuto Group, to find apartments based not just on number of bedrooms or price, but by how far they are located from any Metro station. A mash-up of the Metro map and customized Google maps will provide a snapshot of the various listings available.
Widgets are just one of the many Web 2.0 initiatives now being pursued by The Washington Post in an effort to distribute its content beyond its Web site "to wherever consumers might be" on the Web, said Ken Barbieri, director of business development at Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive.
"About a year or two ago it became clear to us that we can't solely rely on the fact that our readers' eyeballs will come to the WasingtonPost.com domain," he said. In order to "play in this Web 2.0 world of distributed content" media companies have to "get your content to the place where people are consuming information, whether it's on our site or Facebook or MySpace or iGoogle."
Thus far, Washington Post's most successful widgets have been politics-oriented, said Barbieri. For example, last year the paper launched a widget called "Campaign Tracker" that provided easy access to information about the contenders for the Democratic nomination, such as their voting record. The paper has also rolled out "basic RSS widgets in support of our columnists," he said.
This latest widget is designed to appeal specifically to the Post's local audience, which is distinct from its national readership, Barbieri noted.
The Post has plenty of company among newspapers looking to make their content more relevant in a Web 2.0 world. Media Bistro reported last week that the New York Times is working to release an application programming interface (API) that will allow users to create mash-ups of the paper's data. "The plan is definitely to open [the code] up," Mark Frons, chief technology officer for the Times, told the Web site. "How far we don't know."
Barbieri hinted at more aggressive Web 2.0 tactics in the works from the Post as well. "We have also designed and built Facebook applications and are looking at the iPhone and Blackberry on mobile," he said. "Whether the consumer is on a social network or a mobile phone, we want to be there."
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Douglas Quenqua is a journalist based in Brooklyn, NY who writes about culture and technology. His work has appeared in The New York Times, Wired, The New York Observer, and Fortune.
March 19, 2014