GateHouse Media New England launched a new Wicked Local last night.
For those not familiar the Wicked Local project, it was launched as a small-town “hyperlocal” experiment in 2006, before GateHouse acquired Enterprise Media.
Because of the success of the initial sites, we wanted to expand it to all of GHMNE.
That said, we also wanted to move the sites onto a unified platform of our own conception and redesign and restructure the sites.
Here’s a typical Wicked Local site today.
I think the design, by Nick Sergeant, is gorgeous.
Admittedly, the sites still need some polish. We didn’t finish “submit an article” and “submit an event” in time for launch (for business reasons, we had a hard deadline to meet), so these are mailto links. The UGC platform is also in early beta stages. We have a lot of tweaks, changes and additions planned.
One of the interesting discussions we had is what to do with www.wickedlocal.com. In the old TownOnline.com model (now completely replaced by WL), the home page was a collection of top headlines from all of the weeklies in the GHMNE group. This did not prove to be a terribily effective traffic driver. Since WL is a collection of 160 sites, not just one newspaper, the typical home page strategy of a newspaper.com seemed inappropriate.
So, what to do?
Hey! How about turn the home page into a blog?
I wish I could take credit for it, but that credit goes to Anne Eisenmenger, VP of Interactive for GHMNE.
The blog, too, needs some spit and polish yet. We’re also going to make video a key feature of the page once we work out some issues with that implementation.
I’ve only mentioned by name two key people involved in this project, but there were dozens and dozens of people involved in the planning and execution of this launch. Many, many people put in extra hours. Everybody’s hard work is greatly appreciated.