Big Newspaper, Big Internet Flop

I remember a boss once when I sold newsaper ads whose claim to fame was his long association with the Washington Post. His name was Don, and he used to come into work very early, and always wore beautifully pressed dress shirts and shiny leather shoes. He came from that big league, big time environment of the Post to the little old Daily Hampshire Gazette. And the fact is, he didn’t really know how to sell. My pal Joe used to say he was like a baseball manager who never played in the big leagues. Knew how to talk, but not the nitty-gritty of how to close and make the sale.

I thought about Don today when I read a story about a spectacular Washington Post flop–The big newspaper has been trying to develop a ‘hyper local’ news website about the small Virginia county of Loudoun, and they’ve failed miserably. The story by Russell Adams in today’s WSJ attributes the failure of “ to the fact that the out-of-towners who developed the site never really took the time to get to know the place there were supposed to be hyper-covering.

But some of the problems were just dumb decisions. One of them was that when a big story is published involving Loudoun county, it gets published in the Washington Post and the Post’s website, without even a link to the So the new site doesn’t get any extra traffic or link power from its bigger more link-worthy brother. Ditto for the Post’s dedicated Loudoun county page, it doesn’t send any traffic to the new site either.

When AOL decided to move out of Loudoun county to New York City, the link was put up for a mere two hours, and it generated the most traffic loudounextra had ever seen. But they took the link down (why??) and things calmed right back down. It just makes sense that you link the new little sites to your big established sites, and if you don’t do that, you lose traffic. I can just see some starched shirt editor, sniffing about what a pain it is to have to add all of those pesky links to a website published by his own company.

One of the site developers even admitted that he spent too much time talking to publishers of other similiar newspaper sites instead of speaking with the people in Loudoun, who were more important than his colleagues. The site developer who has jumped ship and is heading to a new venture in Las Vegas admitted he screwed up. “I was the one who was supposed to know we should be talking to the Rotary Club….I dropped the ball, but I won’t drop in Vegas, dude.”