NBC-Universal has unveiled DigPhilly, a city site designed to complement WCAU 10, an owned- and-operated station (and the homebase for the president of NBC O&Os). The site is serving as a template for NBC-U’s other O&Os, so the stakes are high. This is actually the first time NBC-U has really dived back into local on the Web — aside from its TV station sites — since NBC Interactive Neighborhood in the mid-1990s (which I consulted for).
What is striking is that the TV station’s call letters and programming do not appear anywhere on the site. DigPhilly was built by a team of 12 to 15, independently of the TV station, which has a pretty good site of its own. NBC-U, apparently, believes the city site has a different purpose from that of the TV station site, just as many newspapers believe their arts and entertainment sites should be separated from the news.
A media kit for the site calls it “a social networking platform and digital gateway into your city, produced locally and designed to serve the needs of the greater Philadelphia area.” The media kit suggests that “by integrating informative content channels with new and innovative methods of navigation and cross-pollination, DigPhilly.com’s cutting-edge architecture will serve as the catalyst to revive today’s Web-savvy consumers who no longer respond to yesterday’s online media portals.”
The media kit also notes that as “a suite of user-friendly media channels, DigPhilly.com contains a little bit of something for everyone. Current Events, Local Sports, Music, Nightlife, Shopping, Bar and Restaurant Reviews, Photo Sharing, Classifieds. … DigPhilly.com is not a search engine, it’s a research engine.”
Promotions-wise — which, of course, is the real strength of a TV station Web site — the site promises “the reach of NBC 10 Philadelphia with external media channels in print, Web, and radio” (including NBC-U’s iVillage, which ought to use this as a local outpost). Furthermore, the “charter marketing campaign” will push out to the area’s 3.5 million+ consumers in a “massive outbound media campaign.”
DigPhilly.com also promises to “target consumers through the use of a ‘street team’ that will focus on promotion efforts at regional bars, restaurants, events, nightclubs, and other areas that match our target audience’s profile and lifestyle trends.”
So what do you see when you go on the site? The attractive iPhone-ish template includes five buttons for “learn,” “do,” “share,” “find” and “shop.” To my eyes, that’s a pretty good breakdown. Each button then has subcategories. The frames for stories and ads are TV-style large, there is a lot of white space, and eventually it will be filled with on-demand video on many pages.
It looks pretty good. But the site doesn’t seem fully populated, which isn’t especially surprising for a site relying so heavily on user-generated content. Right now, the homegrown content is basically limited to a helpful dining directory with some user reviews, a few video profiles and a “Shop” section.
Syndicated content includes events from the PhillyFunGuide, personals from Match.com, fashion tips from Philly Style Magazine, fitness tips from Philly Fit Magazine and (a placeholder for) classifieds, which are being developed by Creative Circle Ad Solutions from Providence, R.I. Creative has the contract for a number of NBC sites.
The most ambitious part of the site is probably the Shop section. It includes “Buy,” which is described as a virtual marketplace; “Sell,” for user-generated classifieds; and “Swap,” which is ambitiously described as “Philly’s premier barter channel — all trade, no pay.” The section also includes “Dig Deep,” which is described as “the marketplace for local businesses — and editorial focus to match.”
The Shop section also includes some women-oriented feature videos, but I couldn’t tell if they were spun off from daytime news programming or not. There is no local identifier. Video titles include “All About Jeans,” “Prepping Your Skin,” etc.
Like many sites, I predict that DigPhilly is probably overestimating the power and appeal of user-generated content. And I don’t know that it was necessary to entirely separate the TV station from the site. But if NBC-U believes that it has a role on the local Internet, it will spend what it takes to fix things and pump up the site with saturation on-air promotion.