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In a session called “The Online City: Close Up on Seattle” here at Drilling Down on Local, The Seattle Times’ Patricia Lee Smith reiterated a point made earlier by the LA Times’ Rob Barrett, which is that online newspapers cannot compete on technology. The only way for newspapers to carve out a unique position online is to leverage not just unique local content, but also unique local understanding. 

“We at the newspaper co have a uniquely local lens. we can’t compete in technology, but we offer a uniquely local perspective,” Smith says. “At any given time, people in two newsrooms in Seattle are asking what information matters most to people in this community.” 

Through, The Times has created a hyperlocal site that seeks to understand the local consumer, and combines professional and consumer-generated content. 

Smith told the audience that NWsource, while generating less traffic than The Times’ other online brands, produced three times the clickthrough rates as the main Seattle Times site, because of its relevant content that drives to the neighborhood level. 

Matt Berk from Marchex talked about how his company, which operates more than 150,000 local domains, described a much different approach to a similar objective, using content aggregation and sophisticated technology to build a very relevant experience for a consumer looking for information in Seattle. For example, Marchex has aggregated about 32,000 local business reviews in the Seattle area from a variety of content partners.  Berk acknowledged it is still early days in creating and monetizing the optimal hyperlocal experience. “We are at the beginning of learning what it means to target locally.”    




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