The Washington Post Co.'s online subsidiary yesterday launched a new Web site that is designed to give users a personalized entry point to Internet information and activities centered in the Washington region.
The site, called onwashington.com, can be organized by users to deliver news and information about their neighborhoods and communities.
It also includes features such as an appointment calendar, a Web search engine, a free e-mail service that will soon be available and community message boards, a package meant to entice area Internet users into using the new site as a gateway to the Web.
Onwashington.com both supports--and in some ways--competes with the company's existing online newspaper, washingtonpost.com.
Although onwashington.com links to news stories and features from The Washington Post and washingtonpost.com, it has been designed with a very different appearance than its online cousin and is intended to appeal to users who aren't primarily electronic news customers. Both Web sites are run by the company's Internet division, Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive (WPNI), and link to each other.
The content needed to "localize" the new site is still being developed. WPNI Publisher Marc Teren said onwashington.com will seek partnerships with suburban and community newspapers and other media companies in the Washington region, to expand its community coverage.
"Onwashington.com is a product that we hope the community will populate," Teren said. "There are publishing tools that any church group, community group or school can use to post events to the site.
"We believe that to provide full coverage of . . . the community, we need to open opportunities for others to bring information to this site."
Gary Arlen, a Bethesda Internet analyst, said the biggest challenge will be for people to locate onwashington.com. "The trick is going to be branding onwashington.com, which is nowhere near as intuitive as Washingtonpost.com," Arlen said.
In major cities throughout the country, dominant newspapers are aligning their online sites to repulse moves by major Internet companies to offer local online "portals" that host competing sources of local news, entertainment guides, advertising and other Web features. A major competitor is Dulles-based America Online Inc., which hosts Digitalcity.com, a network of online city guides.
The Houston Chronicle and the New York Times both have opened local portals in addition to their electronic newspapers, using the same technology from AltaVista Homebase that onwashington.com employs.
Arlen said he is not sure that having such separate sites makes sense, because Web users may become confused.
But Teren called onwashington.com "an important step in making sure that washingtonpost.com is competitive with other portals."