New England-based GoLocal24 is leaping across the country to launch a community website in Portland, Ore., the third largest city in the Northwest and a favored community among digitally bred millennials.
Portland will be GoLocal’s third entry into a mid-sized market with a struggling legacy newspaper. Josh Fenton co-founded the first GoLocal in Providence, Rhode Island’s capital, four years ago, and expanded to Worcester in Central Massachusetts two years later. The two sites currently generate 7.5 million pageviews per month and attract just under 800,000 unique visitors monthly, according to Fenton.
“In both Rhode Island and Central Massachusetts, we have quickly grown to be a leading source of enterprise local news content,” said Fenton, who is CEO of GoLocal24 (and an occasional Street Fight contributor). “GoLocal is creating new ways to access vital news and information for citizens who want their local content delivered digitally.”
The expansion comes just a couple of weeks after Aol sold off what remained of its Patch network of hyperlocal news sites, and only a day after Patch’s new owners announced that hundreds of employees would be laid off. Aol reportedly spent between $200-300 million on the failed project, only to find that its news product could not achieve the sustainable scaled profitability it has envisioned. Other hyperlocal networks like Daily Voice and Everyblock are alive only after teetering on the edge of extinction in 2013.
GoLocal’s model is different — going after larger regions rather than specific hyperlocal communities, and putting a large focus on investigative pieces and social media. The company’s content is all locally focused, and it doesn’t aggregate content from other sources or republish wire reports.
“Since we launched GoLocalProv in 2010, we have had an absolute commitment to invest in high quality enterprise journalism,” says Fenton. “We have broken many of the biggest stories in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. We will continue to invest in local content – Portland has a rich history of great journalism.”
In both New England markets, GoLocal is competing against long-established legacy publications – the Providence Journal and the Worcester Telegram – that have been slow to respond to Fenton’s splashy brand of local journalism, which mixes investigative takeouts with featurish but in-depth lifestyle and education articles, many of which are aimed at 35-to-50-year-old mothers. Fenton also has been successful in recruiting contributors who are well known (and read, watched and listened to) New England media personalities.
In Portland, Fenton will be competing not only against the Newhouse’s Oregonian, the oldest daily in the state, but also Pamplin Media’s Portland Tribune and its sister publications, which cover 27 communities in the metro area and elsewhere in the state with both print and digital editions.
The Oregonian recently cut home delivery of its print edition to four days a week as part of its “digital-first” strategy. The rationing of home delivery is part of a pattern by Newhouse at it dailies around the U.S. to offset massive losses of display and classified advertising. The move in Portland was criticized by Mayor Charlie Hales as “a big move, and not a positive one.” Meanwhile, Pamplin Media’s sites blend traditional news, featuring lots of crime reports and duty coverage of various civic announcements, with a “Sustainable Life” section that chronicles “green living” in environmentally conscious Portland and Oregon.
Fenton said he and his team looked at many communities as possible homes for the third GoLocal, but board member Merrill Brown — who was founding editor in chief of MSNBC and is now director of the School of Communication and Media at Montclair State University in New Jersey — “really pushed us to go to Portland. He said, ‘We’re proving it in New England, but we need to go to another market in another part of the country.’”
Portland is the right market, Brown says, because it’s a “vital, cutting-edge community that’s a national leader in technology, commerce and food, to name a few.” It’s also the 22nd largest DMA in the U.S.
Fenton’s new GoLocalPDX.com takes its handle from the popular three-letter slang name for Portland. “PDX” is also the abbreviation for Portland International Airport, part of TV station’s KPDX name and the key letters in the URL for Portland State University. GoLocalPDX will be covering a city that recently was named No. 1 among “The 35 Best U.S. Cities for People 35 and Under” by Vocativ, the brash “global social news network.” The well-represented millennial generation among the nearly 600,000 city residents will, no doubt, be a frequent subject for the site’s lifestyle features.
Privately held GoLocal24 has attracted local investment from private investors in Portland for the expansion.
“I am excited to be a part of GoLocalPDX entrance in the Portland market,” said Debi Coleman, an investor in GoLocalPDX and the former chief financial officer at Apple. “Journalism is critical to a strong community and GoLocal’s innovative, collaborative and disruptive model aligns content with what users want and need.”
Tom Grubisich (@TomGrubisich) writes “The New News” column for Street Fight. He is editorial director of the in-development hyperlocal news network Local America that will rate communities on their performance across a broad spectrum of livability. He will present the site’s new demo on Charleston, S.C., at the DIG SOUTH 2014 interactive festival in Charleston on April 9-13, 2014.