Moving forward on its plan to build a Washington-centric gateway to the Web, Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive of Arlington announced yesterday that it will use AltaVista Co. technology to launch an Internet "portal" this fall.

The site will combine news and information from The Washington Post and washingtonpost.com with e-mail service and Web searching developed by AltaVista's Zip2 division. AltaVista will also offer personalization, allowing site visitors to adjust and organize the material to suit their tastes.

Like existing portals, this one will offer a variety of choices, or "channels." Among them will be a Washington guide, news, shopping and financial information. Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive spokesperson Erin O'Shea Starzynski said the portal is still in the design phase and that the company is not in a position to provide detailed plans.

"You'll see the breadth and depth of the information immediately," Starzynski said. "Our goal is to emphasize strongly the different offerings we have in the site."

The Web sites of local news organizations across the country are confronting competition from big national Internet players, which cater to discrete local interests by breaking down news, information and entertainment guides by locality and offering regionally tailored packages such as Microsoft's Sidewalk and America Online's Digital Cities.

The Houston Chronicle's local portal site (www.houston4u.com) and the New York Times' www.nytoday.com already use Zip2 technology. The news organizations also continue to offer the straight, unadulterated news site at a different Web address.

But www.houston4u.com, for example, offers a broad service menu on which connection to the newspaper's stories is only one dish. The user can also click on schedules of events, lottery results and a feature that provides directions to addresses typed into a box.

In late June, AltaVista said it would develop 42 city portals with well-known media companies in the United States, Canada and Europe.

Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive has had a partnership with one of AltaVista's competitors, Ticketmaster CitySearch, for the past two years. While yesterday's announcement raises questions about the CitySearch arrangement, WPNI President Marc Teren said that relationship is "business as usual."

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.