It sometimes looks as if the hyperlocal space is owned by commercial “pureplays” – the Yelps, Angie’s Lists and Weddings.com. These are the sites that most often seem connected to their often very vertical communities – and pull in the revenue, as documented in the new Borrell report.
News sites grind out their duty coverage of local arrests, fires and traffic snarls, but how often do they capture what’s special about their towns and stir up communal sprit? And even if they do achieve that, how often do they reap new revenue from their enterprise?
30A succeeds at both. Founder and CEO Mike Ragsdale sees 30A as far more than a website. “It’s a network, it’s a brand,” he says. 30A has plenty of new about the Santa Rosa Beach communities along the Gulf Coast of Northwest Florida, including the occasional story that might not sit that well with visitors who reach for too many cool ones (“Spring Break Safety: Sheriff, Seaside Take Stand Against Illegal Activities”) But it’s also three retail stores, 30A Radio, 30A Weddings.com and 30A VideoTours.com, and more.
It’s not as if we’re talking about South Beach in Miami. Santa Rosa Beach is so far west that it’s in the Central Time Zone, which means that when it’s 12 noon in Santa Rosa Beach, it’s the same time in the desert of West Texas.
Nine years ago 30A stood for a strip of asphalt that connected the 23 beach communities of Santa Rosa Beach. Then would-be entrepreneur community publisher Ragsdale borrowed the name of the highway, added a friendly, beaming sun to the logo, and the 30A brand was born.
These days, 30A regularly shows up as the only hyperlocal site on Michele’s List that tops $1 million in revenue. Ragsdale is aiming even higher, as he explained to me:
“We just launched 30A Wine, in partnership with Mercer Estates in Washington State. It goes on sale in local restaurants and shops this week, and the initial local reception has been fantastic. We started out with this wine tasting.
“Our radio station continues to grow in importance to our network. Not only does it provide 24/7 content, but it also enables us to host in-depth interviews with locals and visitors… Here are some examples. We’re renovating a vintage 1972 Airstream Argosy camper to serve as 30A Radio’s mobile recording studio, so that we can better attend and cover local and regional events. [30A Radio has also been promoting construction of a skateboard park in Walton County, where Santa Rosa Beach is located.]
“We recently launched 30ATours.com, which enables local and visitors to book local activities online — even from their phone.
We’re preparing to host our fourth annual “30A Locals Last Stand” on May 22, a celebration just for locals right before the busy beginning of our peak summer season here at the beach.
“Our 30A stores, like the one at Seagrove, sell gear and local products, including, honey and beach chairs, as well as 30A apparel and books by local authors. You can take a virtual tour of the Seagrove store on your computer keyboard, thanks to what local photographer Joseph Mayer put together.”
What does all this add up to in revenue, I asked Ragsdale:
“In 2015, the company’s revenue surpassed $1.7 million, doubling its 2014 total. The company is targeting an additional million in growth this year.”
Could the commercial pureplays learn anything from Ragsdale?