Allbritton Plots ‘Real-Time’ D.C. Web Launch

WJLA, NewsChannel 8 sites to combine into TBD.com
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Some aspects of Allbritton Communications' soonto- launch Washington Website are to be determined. This much we know: Former WashingtonPost.com executive editor Jim Brady is running the operation; ex-CBS News Political Director Steve Chaggaris is on board, too; and the site will replace the current WJLA and NewsChannel 8 Web properties. And the name itself is TBD-as in TBD.com.

TBD.com, which launches this summer, won't look like a typical TV station site. "We're trying to do something different," says General Manager Brady. "We're trying to combine what makes the Web interesting and what makes TV such an effective medium."

Arlington, Va.-based Allbritton has elevated its profile in Washington considerably. Its WJLA is a strong ABC affiliate in DMA No. 9, NewsChannel 8 has the 24/7 cable beat covered, and Allbritton's print/ Web entity, The Politico, has become a major presence around the Beltway. "All our cylinders in Washington are firing right now," says Allbritton Senior VP Jerry Fritz.

Owner of seven stations, Allbritton's net revenues were up 14% to $45 million for the quarter ended March 31.

TBD.com will have about 50 staffers, including waves of one-n man-band reporters, who will cover the market with a mix of original reporting and aggregated content. Allbritton believes its Web approach is different from the norm. "At most stations, if there's video at all, it's repurposed from the station," Fritz says. "This is the reverse of that."

The Politico will have a modest presence on the site, but TBD.com is more about local transit, sports, crime and entertainment. "If you live in, say, Silver Spring, it's a steady stream of news about Silver Spring," Brady says.

The idea isn't completely new: In 2007, the Washington Post launched a hyper-local venture called LoudounExtra. com covering Loudoun County, Va., but pulled the plug a couple of years later when the concept failed to gain traction.

But some believe TBD.com, which will cover dozens of communities, will be different. "I can't think of a better market in which to try this," says Steve Safran, editor of new-media Website LostRemote.com. "WashingtonPost.com still has an identity crisis where it's torn among national, international and local news. Truly reporting on one's community and returning to the roots of local news is where it's at."

TBD is, of course, short for To Be Determined or To Be Decided; before Allbritton settled on a name, site editor Erik Wemple would sign off e-mails with the placeholder "Editor, TBD.com." The principals started thinking the abbreviation captured what the site sets out to do.

"TBD will never be a finished product," wrote Director of Community Engagement Steve Buttry in its inaugural post April 28. "We'll always be in motion: constantly updating, improving and evolving. We'll be a place you visit to watch the news unfold in real time."

E-mail comments to mmalone@nbmedia.com, and follow him on Twitter: @StationBiz

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