Mixed Demo Messages on New WashPost Local Site

It’s not surprising The Washington Post Company has launched a new hyper-local site focused on a county just outside D.C. The paper publisher did the same in April 2006 with its Express site, aimed at residents in the D.C. metro area.

The new site, LoudounExtra.com, seems to take a cue from Express, providing lots of info on stuff that wouldn’t make it into the WashPost, like church events and local schools guides. It also includes local entertainment and sports content, and allows users to post comments.

The site doesn’t seem to be quite as advanced as Express, which features map-based guides and organizes theater, nightclub and restaurant listings and reviews based on nearby metro stations. According to a New York Times article about the new site, “Readers will be able to download restaurant guides and other content from the site onto their iPods, phones and even video-game consoles. In late August, a new feature will let readers click on a street address and see all the closest events and news nearby.”

More coverage, from Mediapost, notes a long-time advertiser in the print version of The Washington Post, local window seller Long Windows has “bought out most of the site for several months.” The advertiser has a prominent presence, running a large square unit on the homepage in addition to a gigantic 336×850 unit on inner pages. Evidently more will advertise through small business sponsorships and in a “Deal of the Day” section, which isn’t live on the site yet from what I can tell.

One interesting thing to note: While the site seems to be quite family/community/neighborhood-oriented in content (high school sports, schools, houses of worship, local politics and obits), the homepage masthead image (see below) seems quite gen-y/singles/hipster/nightlife-oriented. This image seems more appropriate for the Express site than the Loudoun site, whose main sponsor is a window company, obviously aimed at family-minded homeowners.


loudounextra_header.jpg
“Hey baby, you know what they say about a guy with Long Windows, don’t ya?”

Something to consider, which the NYTimes story alludes to, is the recent demise of hyper local community site network Backfence, which got its start in Virginia communities and other nearby areas. The fact that WashPost had over a year to experiment with Express perhaps is an indication that the local community site thing works for the company, particularly when it comes to ad support. It probably doesn’t hurt that the paper publisher has an entrenched sales force in the area with longtime connections to local businesses, while others that have experimented with models reliant upon wooing local ad dollars have not.

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