Leader of Washington Post’s HyperLocal Efforts Departs

You’ve got to figure if anyone is going to lead the local revolution in the newspaper space it is going to be The Washington Post. To me, the paper signaled its seriousness about hyperlocal when it hired two of its big guns: Arian Holovaty and Rob Curley.

But Holovaty, the father of computer data journalism with chicagocrime.org, left a while back to create Everyblock. And now Rob Curley, who was put in charge of The Post’s effort to create local editions in outlying communities, has just left after 20 months to join The Las Vegas Sun – the lesser half of the Las Vegas Joint Operating Agreement that essentially puts out a “daily magazine,” as Curley calls it.

Curley hasn’t moved to Vegas empty-handed either. He took nine people — a huge chunk of his skunkworks team from The Post. Apparently, the export was done with The Post’s blessing.
An intimidatingly good spinner –his clear vision of where local can go has played a huge role in his efforts winning numerous local media awards over the years– Curley calls The Sun “easily one of the most interesting local media operations in the nation.” He notes that owner Greenspun Media also has TV stations and an alternative newsweekly to webify.

I don’t know the real reason(s) why Curley left, although he says on his blog that he wasn’t the best fit for The Post. The company has just had a round of major buyouts of editorial staff and cost cutting may have had something to do with it. The Post has a new publisher, Katharine Weymouth, and Curley’s departure may be part of a new direction.

Curley asserts in his blog that The Post management stood behind him in his efforts. Chairman Don Graham, who is related to Weymouth, even drove out to distant Loudon County to meet with the schools superintendent when a joint effort hit a snag. He says that Graham also helped with the launch of the newspaper’s Facebook app

Alternatively, there could have been dissatisfaction on all sides with last fall’s launch of Loudonextra.com, a nice community effort but without any special features that standout. The second effort from the team, Fairfax Extra, is slated to launch in a few weeks.

LoudonExtra purports to go deeper than The Post’s section with a restaurant guide, a calendar, a school guide, photo galleries, a house of worship guide and a moving center. It also has a couple of traffic Web cams and two local blogs.

But numerous promised features are still in development, including community publishing tools, and databases of home sales and building permits. I don’t know the actual circumstances. It does seem like Curley and his team had enough time to get it done.

Meanwhile, The Post says it is going full steam ahead with hyperlocal. Publisher Weymouth, in a staff memo republished by Washington City Paper, said that “while we are sad to lose Rob, our commitment to the communities we serve is as strong as ever.”

4 thoughts on “Leader of Washington Post’s HyperLocal Efforts Departs

  1. I’ve worked with Rob for eight years. Just as in the past, we wouldn’t drop the ball on high school sports.

    Our high school sports coverage has been a huge draw on LoudounExtra.com since the site’s inception. When we launched the site last summer, our goal was to have our high school sports coverage in full gear by the start of football season. The result was a stats database that included nearly every athlete, coverage of every game and tons of multimedia. Our football game of the week had four highlight videos, including the band’s halftime show. Every member of our staff spent his or her Friday night writing a game story, sending text message scoring alerts, taking photos or shooting video (not to mention the help we received from Washington Post reporters and photographers). In the meantime, we’ve continued to dedicate lots of resources to our coverage of winter and spring sports. (loudounextra.com/high_school_sports/)

    We’ve seen immense interest in our high school sports coverage in every market, and over the years we’ve done everything from interactive high school player cards to a weekly 30-minute prep sports television program. We weren’t about to launch a hyperlocal site at The Washington Post without this same level of dedication to high school athletics.

  2. The problem with executing hyperlocal in those northern Virginia counties is multi-dimensional. First, they have large, very diverse populations. Second, a lot of the people came from some other place within the past few years, and are likely to move away within a few years too. Third, the people there drive all over to do stuff like work, go to restaurants, attend church, play softball, etc. Their “local” is not like local in a lot of U.S. places.

  3. I hope the push in local search will continue. Traditional media companies need to understand that they can’t rely on traditional print revenue as their main source of income.

    I do agree that the Post has been leading the push to new revenue streams, specifically with their education lead gen site that they bought some time ago.

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