Hyperlocal sites aspire to grab headlines from everywhere and be a one-stop for the neighborhood. That’s been accepted practice, providing the site links back to the origination site, and too much copy isn’t exposed. It tends to build traffic for everyone.
But GateHouse Media, which owns 125 newspapers across Massachusetts, doesn’t feel especially grateful about the linking that has been done by Boston.com’s prototype hyperlocal YourTown site for Newton, Massachusetts. In fact, GateHouse has filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court in Massachusetts.
The suit contends that Boston.com’s deep linking directly to the article bypasses WickedLocal’s home page, and implies an endorsement by listing the title of the local papers next to articles. GateHouse specifically complains of “unfair competition, false advertising, trademark dilution, unfair business practices and other misconduct.”
The suit hasn’t intimidated Boston.com from continuing its practice. Today’s Web site features several links. And no one is contending that linking is unprecedented. In fact, a write-up of the lawsuit in The Boston Globe points out that GateHouse frequently links to The Globe’s articles, too. But the lawsuit might bear paying attention to, with possible implications not only for the turf war in Boston, but also for place blogging in general.
Boston.com’s hyperlocal sites in themselves feature local news and information, a local calendar, a local Wiki and real estate listings, focused on a particular community. While the lawsuit focuses on the Newton site, additional sites have since been launched in Needham and Waltham. Boston.com VP Bob Kempf, who has spearheaded the hyperlocal effort, previously served as a GateHouse executive and actually originated the WickedLocal site.