There's a new survey out from the Washington Post, and it fills out a pretty detailed picture of what the region's largest news provider has in mind for the Internet. One of the questions:
"Please rate your level of interest in accessing a community-news oriented website from your mobile device?"
Another question: "How interested are you in reading articles and getting information on the following local community topics?" (More than a dozen topics pop up in the field, including job listings, local politicians, local artists, etc.)
The questions in the survey bring to mind a similar effort from January, when the Post sent out a survey about readers' business-news appetite. That survey included a prototype of what would quickly turn into the weekly publication
Capital Business. Just as that survey hinted at what was in the offing, so does this community-news version.
Judging from the questions, these new hyperlocal sites would:
*Feature voices from the community;
*Include reporting from Washington Post reporters;
*Go hard on mobile;
*Offer all kinds of functionality enabling people to network with each other, post all kinds of photos, and so on.
According to a Post source, this new crop of sites would be even more hyperlocal than the Patch sites that are now spreading around the region. The mission of the Patch sites is to dig deep on municipal news, including school board meetings, high school sports, trash collection, and the like.
The new Post initiative, says a source, would carve things up even more "micro" than the Patch sites, as in subdivision by subdivision. It's not clear at this point just how the Post would accomplish such a feat given the content needs of such an approach. Managers at the paper, according to the source, have held "hundreds" of meetings on this initiative. This site has also been viewed as a competitor of the Post.
The Post's previous foray into web-based hyperlocal news---the much-discussed Loudoun Extra---didn't succeed. Piloted by local news guru Rob Curley, the project stuck around for a couple of years but failed to make the leap to commercial viability.
What lessons from Loudoun Extra are being applied to this new round of possible web sites? Who knows. Managers involved in the project appear to have done a good job of keeping the deliberations quiet. Please stay tuned for further updates on this development. Inquiries are going out immediately.
One such inquiry---to the Post's top flack and top editor (Marcus Brauchli)---fetched this reply: "Thank you for inquiring, but there's nothing to share right now."