New local tech-business web ventures

GeekWire logoThe two journalists most identified with TechFlash in Seattle, Todd Bishop and John Cook, have left to start a competing site, GeekWire.

The site launched over the weekend of March 5. Their goals for the site are in the post  Welcome to GeekWire, from John Cook and Todd Bishop, including a video of their goals.

TechFlash logoTechFlash plans to fill the positions and plans other changes, says Emory Thomas, publisher of TechFlash and Puget Sound Business Journal. Both sites are part of The Business Journals Digital network, where I work.

Another recent start-up focuses on general business news and was founded by a master’s student at Louisiana State University. Baton Rouge Business Journal, was founded by Ariel Hammond, who wants to be a business journalist.  The site competes against Baton Rouge Business Report, which is owned by Louisiana Business Inc.

Both sites are WordPress sites. The tools and equipment needed to start an online news site are low. The biggest cost is human costs. The biggest challenge is finding revenue to cover those costs.

Previous posts:

Journalism startup specializing in aggregation funded

BringMeTheNews screenshot

BringMeTheNews screenshot

BusinessJournalism: Business-media company, PR firm invest $1 million in Minn. news aggregator.

The aggregation site is BringMeTheNews, founded by Rick Kupchella, former anchor and investigative reporter in Minneapolis. He was profiled by Poynter in December 2009, only 12 weeks after the business had launched. At that time, the site employed 5 full-time and 4 part-time workers. The About Us page at BringMeTheNews showed four people, and I did not see a breakdown of news, technical and other groups among the employees.

Kupchella’s founder in the business was Don Smithmier of New investors are Dolan Media and Padilla Speer Beardsley.

Aggregation is a touchy subject with journalists. It can generate traffic and good story choice and story package can bring real value to readers, which means the come back to the site and become an appealing audience for advertisers. But some view it as assembly-line work. Some of that is snobbery.

An old newspaper equivalent is the rewrite desk. They would take various wire stories, notes from stringers or assorted other sources and craft a story quickly and typically without bylines. Working the rewrite desk was a respected and necessary job.

Compete says BringMeTheNews had 7,890 visitors in July.

Other stories on BringMeTheNews:

Related: How big would the newsroom be if starting fresh and Journalism startups: it’s a business, not a job

Cory Bergman on journalism startups and Newsosaur comments

Writing in Lost Remote, Cory Bergman expands on the idea from Newsosaur that journalism startups need to focus on business.

As a journalist entrepreneur myself, the business challenge is what keeps me awake at night. It’s just as important to know how to help your local advertisers succeed as it is to know what news to cover. As Mutter suggests, a business plan is critical. So is finding people who have a nose for business and understand what it takes to make a startup succeed. This is the big problem to solve, and it won’t be easy.

In the Newsosaur post, the comments give additional insight from other journalism entrepreneurs.

Chris Seper on key moments in launching his startup:

a couple of business mentors who reminded me – constantly – that to build a business I would need to spend as much time selling as I would producing content.

From Rose Roll, director of membership and market with, on why they created a business and tech team instead of relying on just journalists:

There just aren’t enough hours in the day for them to do all the “other” stuff that goes into running a 25-person company: payroll, benefits, government paperwork, income statements, foundation proposals, membership drives, marketing campaigns, meeting with major donors, tweaking the website based on feedback, analyzing online traffic, etc.

Jeff Noedel, editor and publisher,, Hermann, MO:

I agree with the central theme here that a very equal balance between sales and reporting is needed. I’d drop the call for a tech department. I’d propose the third leg of the stool is audience promotions (which helps sell ads and subscriptions).

David Boraks, founder and editor,, Davidson, N.C.

We’ve found that old-fashioned marketing makes the difference: direct mail, sponsorships, presence (and signage) at community events, fliers in kids’ school folders, posters on high-traffic bulletin boards and storefronts, and of course lots of online and offline word of mouth from folks who’ve read your stuff. There’s a lot of legwork involved in this, but it’s absolutely essential. “If you build it they will come” is a fallacy.

Journalism startups: it’s a business, not a job

Reflections of a Newsosaur: Journalists running start-ups face tall odds

After talking to one enterprising journalist after another, I have found almost uniformly that they are making the mistake that has proven to be the downfall of many an entrepreneur: Instead of trying to build a business, they are trying to give themselves the job they always wanted.

There’ a big difference between running a business and working a job that is the business.

One of the best ways to understand the difference is explained in Michael Gerber’s E-Myth, which is now E-Myth Reviseted: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It. It’s the best book I’ve read on how successful business owners manage and grow their businesses compare with being very good at working in the business. You can read the first chapter of the E-Myth Revisited.

For journalism start-ups, Newsosaur’s Alan Mutter nails the argument with:

While journalists at news start-ups think nothing of routinely devoting more than a dozen hours a day to running down stories and tweaking their websites, the pace typically leaves them with neither the time nor the energy to think about such key success factors as building audience and developing a healthy financial basis for their endeavors.

It’s not enough to just have traffic. A entrepreneurial journalist needs to think revenue, controlling expenses and growth. A revenue detail many startups overlook is the revenue being earned on page views. It’s a standard of looking at revenue.

Earlier this year, Felix Salmon, writing in Blogonomics: Revenue per page, and Henry Blodgett debated the importance of revenue per page. Salmon’s best quote was:

This is one area where I think that Henry could take a leaf out of Nick Denton’s book, and refuse to run deeply-discounted ads. Doing that helps to improve the value of the brand among advertisers, and it also creates interesting opportunities for rewarding staff.

See the spat between Salmon and Blodgett, retold in the AtlanticWire.

How big would the newsroom be if starting fresh

As journalists turn entrepreneurs and run their own news operations, the question emerges of what size should the newsroom be.

It’s a key question as existing news organizations ponder web-only conversions or start-ups. Several model sizes have been shown recently.

NYT auto writer Maynard leaving paper

Maynard, a Michigan native, will be based in Chicago and lead a team of three reporters and a new media producer in the production of long form radio feature reports, special programs for radio and television, and web content. The project will also seek to engage the citizens of the region in an exploration of the region’s past and future.

Ex-Fortune Editors Plan Tech Media Launch

Former Fortune magazine editors and writers David Kirkpatrick, Peter Petre and Brent Schlender have banded together to form Techonomy, a new media business they say aims to convince leaders from all sectors that technological and social invention is central for organizations.

A key factor in their business model are conferences and they are considering regional conferences too. More: Techonomy’s press release

Richmond BizSense — This business news site founded by Aaron Kremer has hired another reporter. This site, started in 2008, now has six staffers — five in editorial/content and a v.p. of sales & marketing.

C-Change Media Inc. — this site is run by John A. Byrne, former editor-in-chief  of and executive editor of Business Week. At this time, the site is still small. The site is expected to launch in June. In an interview in, Byrne described the company as a mother ship with satellites. Each satellite operation will have its own editor-in-chief with the rest of the contributions will be from contract and free-lance writers.

It’s not new, but I watch TechFlash — A two-year-old web site that is run within the Puget Sound Business Journal — as an online-only model. TechFlash has three editor/writers (Todd Bishop, John Cook and Eric Engleman) and its business operations are handled by Puget Sound Business Journal staff.

There’s also, which became web-only in March 2009 and is owned by The Hearst Corp. Mónica Guzmán told a panel at SXSW in March that it’s editorial staff is 12 reporters, three producers and one photographer.

The number in these news rooms are smaller than the old print models. Technology in the workplace and in the tools journalists use make it easier for reporters to take and edit acceptable images for their articles, which saves some staff.

The news room is now more flexible. Work no longer takes place just in the office or just on this one machine. Articles are published sooner in the with fewer editors touching the copy before it it published. Changes in the article are ongoing as readers and the news develops.

And the staffs are just doing more. The hours worked are longer and the blur between work and not working is greater. They start working and posting before the leave for the office, while at the office and after they leave the office — if they even have an office. The office could be the laptop in the bedroom.


Small Biz Survival focus on small towns and rural areas

I enjoyed hearing and talking with Becky McCray, a principal blogger for Small Biz Survival at SXSW 2010.

The list of businesses she runs vary from a cattle ranch (she lives in western Oklahoma) to a liquor store to a web site to a consulting firm for small businesses. “I fill out four Schedule Cs with my income taxes.”

It’s easy to get focus on tech entrepreneurship in major cities but Small Biz Survival focuses on the smaller areas of the country. It also has good advice for those on smaller budgets too.

Here are two good posts recently I enjoyed reading:

How do you make FourSquare relevant for small towns

On location-based data:

Now, that same scenario makes less sense in a small town. We just don’t need that kind of location data. We already know what all the local restaurants are like. There are only four, and we’ve eaten at all of them this week. (Sad, but true.)

Can you teach entrepreneurship

Being a successful entrepreneur requires some particular skills. Many programs exist to teach entrepenuership in schools, in community organizations and in entrepreneurial support groups, but debate continues over whether entrepreneurship can really be taught. Are you born an entrepreneur, or can you learn to become one?

A featured article on the blog by her  is Say NO gracefully

Small businesses are constantly hit with offers from potential suppliers, hopeful partners, and even potential customers. Then there are the constant requests for free help, volunteer work, donations, and even jobs. You can’t possibly do it all. Let’s face it. Being in business means saying “no” a lot.