New Zealand Post has plans to move its directory service Localist to include editorial content such as news.

Initially promoted as a competitor for Yellow Pages in Auckland, plans for extra content suggest a role in the traditional community media.

And if successful New Zealand Post plans to take it nationwide.

Localist divides Auckland into five sections, covering east, west, north and two central sections.

An online arm starting in June will be accompanied by five A5 print directories published every six months.

The search engine allows users to drill down from listings in the five regions into clusters of suburbs.

Begun last October, it was a challenge to Yellow Pages, whose own ambitious plans for digital expansion appear to have been slowed because of financial problems caused by past debt structure.

But Yellow still has a formidable database of businesses New Zealand Post is working to replicate.

It is still early days but New Zealand Post has pumped a lot of resources into Localist.

It is chaired by Sam Knowles, a former chief executive of Kiwibank.

Knowles said in October that Localist was "designed to take the best that traditional directories have to offer, along with the power of social media, and create something new".

Localist's chief executive is Blair Glubb, a former marketing boss at Yellow Pages.

Glubb says the need for content has become more apparent but it had always been envisaged.

It is now hiring "producers" who will oversee content.

The digital arm, which encompasses the future of the website, will allow people to comment on local businesses.

Their rating - rather than any tiered pricing structure - will decide where advertisers are positioned on the site and all ratings will be taken into account.

Consumer reviews of advertisers will be moderated by staff.

Six months after launch Localist was ahead of schedule with 30,000 businesses already included in its free listings, Glubb said.

He estimated it would be breaking even in three to four years - fairly typical for a successful start-up.

Localist was in a marketing trend to "hyper-localism". Glubb pointed to Patch Media in the United States, bought by Time Warner division AOL in 2009.

The aim is to build a community focus via print and online. Ultimately cellphone will play a dominant role.

Glubb said Google and Facebook had moved into local advertising but were struggling to attract small business as advertisers.

Of Localist's 90 staff, 50 had been chosen for their selling skills.

Localist marketing manager Sheryl Nichols has worked at Yellow as well as BT in Britain, where she led small start-up ventures. A former journalist, - she worked eight years in community and regional newspapers - she says Localist represents a new category of media.

"For us the line between news, community material and business content is quite thin," Nichols said.

Links with the buzz of social media such as Facebook would be important as would community feedback on advertisers.

All consumer ratings would be incorporated into scores that decided where an ad was placed.

But Localist intended to be constructive and positive, publishing moderate or good reviews but not bad ones.