Newspapers as we know them are dying. Offline readership numbers are dwindling as more and more people find what they need on the Web. Owners and editors everywhere have been grappling for some time now with how to stay relevant in today’s increasingly online world. Some think the answer is to focus on what, they argue, newspapers do best: local news. That was presumably the inspiration behind the Washington Post’s launch last year of LoudounExtra.com, a local community portal.
The WSJ article explains how, since the site’s launch in July 2007, it never really gained traction. The main reason for the failure appears to have been a failure to engage the local community in the site due, seemingly to two factors:
- The community that was targeted (consisting of 7 different towns) did not have a strong common sense of identity.
- The team didn’t put enough emphasis on real-world networking and promotion of the site with local community groups.
In addition to this, it looks like the parent paper could have done more to support the site by directing Internet users towards it from its main Web site, perhaps at least until it reached some kind of critical mass.
It’s interesting to note that, despite this site not taking off, the head of the project had previously successfully run other local newspaper portals focusing on smaller (perhaps better-defined?) communities.