US newspaper group buys hyperlocal site

NEW YORK - Hyperlocal website WikiCity has been bought by Nebraskan newspaper group The Omaha World-Herald, promising to bring news and community pages closer together.

The Omaha World-Herald, which is the largest employee-owned newspaper in the US, gave no details of its plans for WikiCity, but the acquisition allows it to integrate the community-based social web site into its own website.

The site is one of the biggest in the South West, pulling in around 14m page views per month and with more than 300,000 registered users.

WikiCity, which was founded in 2008 by Pat Lazure, serves as an online city guide and provides information on places, events and people in 22,000 US towns and is one of the largest wiki type sites in the world.

The acquisition is one of a number of moves in the hyperlocal market by newspaper groups as they try to launch their own efforts and compete with a growing number of start-ups.

Established US hyperlocal player announced this week that it is expanding its operations North of the border into Canada.

In August, Fisher Communications launched 43 rising to 44 hyperlocal websites in the Seattle area and 38 in Oregon making it the largest concentration of community websites in the country, while MSNBC bought

There have also been notable failures in this emerging market such as The Washington Post, which in August said it was to close its Loudoun Extra after two years, claiming the model was not sustainable.

In the UK, Guardian News & Media recently announced that it plans to launch a new service next year, Guardian Local, in Leeds, Cardiff and Edinburgh. Other publishers including Trinity Mirror, Newsquest and Associated Newspapers have also been expanding their hyperlocal efforts.

Journalism blog Nieman Lab said that The Omaha World-Herald move was "an example of a newspaper redefining its role and product".

"This sale seems like a realisation that the product isn't news; it's helping readers make sense of their world in every way possible. I think more newspapers will need to do this as their business continues to evolve."

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