WashingtonPost.Com Launches ‘Local Explorer’ Mapping Site

WashingtonPost.com has soft-launched “Local Explorer,” which allows users to map crime, home sales and school information by ZIP code. It is a great model for “mapped journalism.”

The tag line for Local Explorer says it allows you to explore “Police and fire stations, restaurants, bars, hospitals and more, plus Facts & Figures; Local News from The Post; Community Resources; Classifieds.’ The whole thing is very compelling – but strictly limited to the D.C.-area. (try my old Cap Hill ZIP code, “20003,” to demo). The site will be officially announced later this week.

WashingtonPost.com, in fact, has really ramped up its hyper-local activities. In addition to the Local Explorer, it has Express, its Oodle-powered crawl of local classifieds; its new City Guide; and its “On Being” video series of local people. The Post is also beefing up its exurban coverage – soon – by launching Loudonextra.com, per Paul Farhi in The American Journalism Review.

The Post seems to have been caught shorthanded by Loudon’s extremely fast growth, and has a news staff of just four people for its twice-weekly Loudon supplement. The Loudon Extra site, with user-generated content and other features, should supplement its efforts. (Loudon is the former farm land that includes Dulles Airport, AOL and tens of thousands of new homes.)

When it comes to such exurban coverage, The Post is in an awkward corporate situation, since it also owns Gazette Newspapers, a chain of community papers that serves the Loudon marketplace. It is never clear whether its online and supplement efforts cannibalize Gazette and its own online efforts. But given the fast growth of the area, and lots of emerging media in Loudon, it is probably seen as a necessary, defensive move.

Indeed, just last year, Backfence signed to power the Web site for The Loudon Independent, a new start-up paper in the county. Per Farhi, Loudon now has 11 weekly newspapers.

Farhi’s AJR article, which includes a couple of quotes from me, is a general overview of hyper-local that has some other interesting details. It notes, for instance, that BaristaNet.com, the compelling hyper-local site serving Essex County, N.J., is on target to make about $100,000 this year, up from $60,000 in 2006.

(Thanks to my colleague Taylor Walsh for pointing out The Post’s Local Explorer.)

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