Like AOL with Patch, Yahoo is getting into the local news business. The portal site has launched a Beta of the new Yahoo Local at beta.local.yahoo.com. The old local.yahoo.com was focused on local business search and events listings. The Beta banishes search and focuses on news, events (including movie listings) and deals.
Unlike Patch, which hires a full time local editor in each community, Yahoo seems to be relying on RSS feeds and individual user contributions for its local news. Currently most of the news seems to be headlines and excerpts aggregated from the feeds of various local online news sites. Clicking a headline takes you to the original article on the 3rd party site. I'm sure Yahoo would like to have exclusive content, but unlike AOL they don't seem willing to pay for professional community based writers. Instead Yahoo is appealing to individuals to contribute events and news items. Contributors receive assignments paying between $2 and $25 per item plus performance payments of $1.15 for every 1000 page views generated by their news items.
The local Beta is currently only available in San Francisco, Palo Alto, Mountain View and Sunnyvale, CA; Brooklyn, NY and the Detroit suburbs of Birmingham, Ferndale, and Royal Oak. Yahoo says that more cities will be coming soon. Within each city you can customize the view by picking a specific neighborhood. Visit beta.local.yahoo.com with your PC browser to see the Beta.
There's a mobile version of the local Beta too. If you are using an Apple iOS or Android phone beta.local.yahoo.com will bring up a nice looking mobile version of the Yahoo Local Beta that pretty much mirrors the look and features of desktop site. But unlike the desktop site, which shows city wide information unless you pick a neighborhood, the mobile one forces you to choose a neighborhood the first time you visit. The front page is a mix of items from News, Things to Do and Deals categories. Tabs let you filter listings to any one of the three categories.
News items are presented as a list of headline links. Clicking a headline opens the story in a new page. If the item comes from a 3rd party site you can only get an excerpt but can click through to read the original, which is not always mobile formatted. While that's not a big deal, the iOS and Android handle desktop pages just fine, it does take away from the integrated mobile experience of the rest of the Yahoo Local Beta.
If you don't have a supported device, beta.local.yahoo.com will go to the desktop version of the Beta but you can force the mobile one by using beta.local.yahoo.com/mobile. Don't expect to see much though. The Samsung bada browser was the only non-supported one I tried that rendered the page completely. With Opera Mobile and Mini and the Symbian^3 browser all I got was the the page header with no real content at all. Hopefully Yahoo will add support for more browsers eventually.