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Rob Curley: reflections and lessons from WPNIs Loudoun hyperlocal project

The self-confessed internet nerd from Kansas reflects on the successes and failures of the hyperlocal project his team developed while he was head of online product development at Washington Post Newsweek International.

Curley and several of his team have now moved on to develop online sweetmeats for the Las Vagas Sun – but Curley responds to an WSJ article about his development of a hyperlocal site for an area of Virginia near Washington – LoudounExtra.com.

The article headline called the project a flop – something Curley rejects.

However, he’s in agreement with the general tone on the piece, saying that the problems with the site were ‘poor integration of the site with washingtonpost.com and not enough outreach into the community’ but stands by the general aims and achievements of the site to connect to people on a local level as still being the primary focuses of newspaper websites.

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While we were away… EveryBlock, LoudounExtra, BBC plans and more

June 9th, 2008 | No Comments | Posted by in Journalism, Magazines

In case you hadn’t noticed, Journalism.co.uk was in Sweden last week covering the World Association of Newspapers annual conference and the World Editors Forum.

So no one misses out, here’s a round-up of what went down while we were away:

Guardian: BBC ends ‘licence fee’ plans for international news website
The Beeb has dropped proposals for subscription-based access to BBC.com

WSJ.com: Analysis of hyperlocal news site LoudounExtra.com
Following the departure of Rob Curley, chief architect behind the Washington Post spin-off site, WSJ asks if the site has found its audience a year into the project.

Editor&Publisher: 94 newspapers join Yahoo partnership
A total of 779 newspapers now have access to the search engine’s advertising technology and HotJobs ads.

Daily Mail: Sir Ian Blair advocates use of celebrity news videos as evidence in drug trials
Footage, such as the Sun’s infamous Amy Winehouse video and of Kate Moss snorting a white substance, should be presented to the jury in such cases, Blair has said.

Guardian: BBC’s new plans for personalisation of website
Plans to create a new rating, recommendation and personalisation system across bbc.co.uk will be put to the BBC Trust, according to the corporation’s latest programme policy statement.

Editor’s Weblog: Washington Post launches online publishing company
The Slate Group will feature a host of digital titles including Slate and The Root, with additional launches planned.

Telegraph.co.uk: Update on revamp of community blogging platform MyTelegraph
Communities editor Shane Richmond says a relaunch date will be announced by the end of next week.

Matthew Ingram: Globe and Mail removes pay wall
Number of subscribers was not enough to maintain the wall, says Ingram, who works for the paper. Some readers remain unconvinced, he says, pointing out one comment: “You can’t shut us out for a few years and then expect us to come back just because it’s free.”

MediaShift: Everyblock releases first special report
The hyperlocal data and news site has mapped information from a recent Chicago police bribery investigation as part of its first special report.

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Editor and Publisher: WPNI head quits, Post takes greater control over web elements

Caroline Little, the CEO of WashingtonPost Newsweek Interactive, has resigned from her post, the newspaper’s publisher has confirmed.

Rumours about here departure bound round the internet last week, till Post Publisher Katharine Weymouth confirmed the move in a memo to staff.

The memo praised Little’s 11 years at the company, but also suggested that the Post newspaper and web teams would move closer together as senior figures in the web team would now report directly to Weymouth.

“I am taking this opportunity to move washingtonpost.com and The Washington Post closer to a true Washington Post Media organisation – rather than a newspaper company and an Internet company,’ the publisher wrote in the memo.

‘To that end, Jim Brady, executive editor of washingtonpost.com and Rob Curley, vice president of products, will report to me.

‘Goli Sheikholeslami, vice president of classifieds and local products, will report to Steve Hills, president and general manager of Washington Post Media.’

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Local newspapers must ‘own’ local news, says Curley

January 29th, 2008 | 1 Comment | Posted by in Newspapers, Online Journalism

In a recent blog post, the Washington Post’s Rob Curley applauds the Las Vegas Sun newspaper for its coverage of a fire at the Monte Carlo hotel, Las Vegas. Curley heaps praise on the layered and multimedia approach the paper took in its reporting, as well as the speed with which it was produced.

This is his breakdown of how the news was reported by the Sun:

1. Began with a live blog, regularly updated by the newsroom staff.

2. Addition of photos – the newspaper also set up a way for users to submit their own images through Flickr.

3. Overview of the situation and context e.g. history of the Monte Carlo hotel.

4. Addition of videos – all put up, as Curley points out, while the building was still burning.

“To me, this was a nearly textbook example of how a local newspaper should cover a big breaking news story in its community in the iPhone era,” Curley writes.

His advice to other newspaper newsrooms: be prepared for breaking news.

  • Ask what the contingency plan is for a sudden surge in traffic coming to your site – can it cope?
  • Have breaking news page templates to hand – something that Curley used in his time with the Naples Daily News and the Lawrence Journal-World.
  • Offer real time coverage to beat rival media.
  • Don’t just treat the story in print – this will be after the event has happened and too late.

Why bother? Because, says Curley, local news organisations should use their proximity to events to beat off the competition and serve their audience best.

A comment on this article from Saturday’s print edition of the newspaper, which was used to complement the web coverage, neatly sums up Curley’s argument: “I couldn’t have got that from CNN or any other news station. I was hooked from the start.”

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Why are news providers on Facebook?

July 25th, 2007 | 1 Comment | Posted by in Online Journalism

Bit of a follow up to the piece I wrote last week about news apps on Facebook - I quoted Rob Curley, from Washington Post Newsweek Interactive, quite heavily in the piece.

He has since updated with this post expanding on why Wash Post is developing Facebook apps. One of the main reasons – he claims – is marketing, getting Wash Post name and values out there without necessarily having just to rely on news apps to try and drag some of Facebooks page views back to the Wash Post news site.

But the value of the marketing, it seems, comes down to the usability of the app in question. Wash Post had a good start with Compass, which lingered in the top five apps on Facebook for some time, and plans are afoot to revisit the device with some updates and add-ons.

Appaholic.com or a similar device can then be used to measure use/success of the app: how many are looking at it, what time of day, etc, etc – but what this all means and what good can do the news producer is still seems rather arbitrary.

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