Spurred on by the likes of BackFence in its suburban territories, WashingtonPost.com has launched its third attempt at a city guide. The new effort, which succeeds previous efforts with CitySearch and Zip2, has a new search engine powered by FAST, search by location and proximity, improved navigation, selected newspaper content, editors picks, ShopLocal sales information, and a calendar that can be browsed by events and categories.
What the site does not include are Yellow Pages, which had been abandoned after Switchboard stopped supporting it. While washingtonpost.com has been an innovator in selling ads on podcasts, video pods and RSS, it has never found “meaningful ways” to sell local service and merchant ads. Indeed, CEO and Publisher Caroline Little, during a keynote at the Kelsey ILM show, said that washingtonpost.com is “4-5 years behind national players” such as Yahoo and AOL who have local templates.
A major emphasis of the new city guide is on “frictionless consumer generated media,” including user reviews of Washington area services and events. Soon, users will also be invited to comment on news and feature articles. Coming up in three-to-six months will be a photo library where users can send in their favorite photos – among the most popular features, coincidentally, on BackFence. “People love photos,” said Little. “We learned that on 9/11.”