This month NBC will be reconfiguring the Web sites of its city-specific stations to focus more on local entertainment and younger demographics. Sites such as wmaq.com and wnbc.com will be transformed into nbcchicago.com and ncbnewyork.com, respectively. The old sites are more network television-centric, with most of the page's real estate taken up by news headlines. The redesign, "Locals Only," includes local news and weather in widget formats with traffic and other feeds built in. There is also more of an emphasis on community and user-generated content, with polls and calls for image and video submissions.
Locals Only tries to capture what the network calls "social capitalists," a well-educated, more affluent group that is social network-native and accustomed to interactive information flow. In hopes of tapping the traffic flow from other local sites such as Yelp or CitySearch, NBC is trying to reinvent itself away from a traditional entertainment medium that is losing steam in terms of advertising dollars. Television station sites have not been pulling much weight compared to search sites and other Internet-based entertainment sites. "Stand-alone Internet companies such as Yahoo! and Local.com account for 57.3% of local online ad dollars, followed by newspapers (24.6%), directories (7.8%) and TV stations (6.9%), according to a report from local media research firm Chicago-based Borrell Associates earlier this year."
Brian Buchwald, senior vice president of NBC Local Integrated Media , said that NBC expects the overhaul of its TV station sites, which have a combined audience of about 7 million, to drive significant traffic growth in 2009. The network expects online advertising sales to exceed $1 billion this year.
Locals Only sites are online this week for San Francisco (not live at this writing), Chicago , Los Angeles and San Diego . Later this month sites for Philadelphia, Washington D.C, New York and Hartford will go online.