LoudounExtra.com Falls Victim to Post's Slumping Newspaper Division

Paper scrapping "hyperlocal" Web site

WASHINGTON -- In its latest cost-cutting move, The Washington Post's owner is scrapping an experimental Web site that provided more news coverage about events happening around the neighborhoods of a Virginia suburb.

LoudounExtra.com will be shut down as an independent Web site this Friday, with some features moving to WashingtonPost.com. The site was focused on Loudoun County, Va., an area located about 25 miles from Washington, D.C.

The decision announced Tuesday comes as Washington Post Co. is trying to cut losses in its slumping newspaper division. Although the company remains profitable as whole, its newspaper operations lost $143 million through the first half of this year.

Like most newspaper publishers, the Post has been hard hit by a sharp drop in advertising as more readers and marketing budgets shift to the Internet.

With the Internet turning news into a free commodity, the Post and other publishers have been trying to serve up more content that can't be easily found anywhere else. The push has spawned so-called sites like LoudounExtra that provide information traditionally considered too parochial for daily newspapers in major metropolitan areas.

It's still unclear whether this so-called "hyperlocal" approach can generate enough revenue to justify the additional overhead.

Instead of operating a separate Web site, the Post has decided it makes more sense to blend LoudounExtra with the rest of the newspaper's county-specific coverage.

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"We are still dedicated to maintaining a high level of coverage of the counties surrounding Washington, D.C.," Post spokeswoman Kris Coratti wrote in a Tuesday e-mail.

Financial pressures led to the closure of another hyperlocal news service called BackFence in 2007.

Meanwhile, other media outlets are upping the hyperlocal ante.

The joint venture that runs MSNBC.com said Monday that it will pay an undisclosed amount to acquire EveryBlock, a Chicago-based news service that zeros in on 15 U.S. communities. In June, AOL bought two hyperlocal startups, Patch Media Corp. and Going Inc., for undisclosed amounts.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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