WPNINew products developers at Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive are evaluating a piece of networking technology that enables newspapers to share specific content and create unrivalled niche news sites.

Members of the newspaper's development team are looking at a networking system created by San Francisco-based CityTools. The system could allow readers access to news on specific topics, created by several different news providers, without the need to visit all the different publisher's sites.

CityTools, developed by Robert Cauthorn, allows publishers to create networks for multiple news categories and for classified advertising.

Networks have the potential to operate like a private wire services, with publishers making available only news stories that fit the specific subject area of the network - allowing them to share specific news verticals and build dedicated, news-rich niche sites.

"Bob has developed something incredibly powerful here. I'm not sure Bob even knows how powerful the thing he has built is. It's really something amazing," said Rob Curley, vice president of product development at Washintonpost.Newsweek Interactive.
"I'm not even sure what it means to the newspaper industry. I have no idea. But it could be huge. Once I saw it, I knew we had to experiment a little bit with it.

"If we can harness just a little bit of this software's potential, then maybe we can do something really powerful to serve our readers in a really cool and new way. And what's really wild is that at least initially, we're only planning on using a very tiny bit of what CityTools does."
Using the system, publishers can control all aspects of the distribution of their content via a web interface, which allows them to restrict where content is available, so as not to jeopardise commercial sensitivities.

"If you have a newspaper that has a network for sports, which consists of a certain group of other papers, and a network for business news, that consists of other papers, then what you have is a position where each newspaper's slice of all the aggregated networks is unique and that fights against commodification," Robert Cauthorn, CEO of CityTools, told Journalism.co.uk

"The problem with the existing wire services is that they have not served the needs of the newspapers. The AP looks the same on all newspaper websites.

"Because of staff cut backs newspapers are relying more heavily on AP. If you get the same content on the San Francisco Chronicle as you do on Yahoo, why not just go to Yahoo? You can get mail there too.

"This new world offers unique relevant content, because you can build networks based on what your readers are interested in.

"How you brand it, how you present it, who you participate with is up to you. It can be for print, for online, for both. Free or paid, or both - anything publishers want. Publishers always have complete authority over their content and networks."

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