With Acquisitions, Brooklyn’s Corner Media Grows Into a Regional Cluster

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corner-mediaPublisher Liena Zagare’s independent Corner Media network in Brooklyn has added three established community news sites in the borough to grow into a cluster of seven sites in a market of 1 million people. 

The company has acquired The Nabe, which serves Fort Greene and Clinton Hill, and it also has acquired well-known Brooklyn neighborhood publisher Ned Berke’s two sites — six-year-old Sheepshead Bites and his three-year-old Bensonhurst Bean. Zagare’s new publications have very different backgrounds. The Nabe is an outgrowth of the The Local, which was started by the New York Times in Fort Greene and Clinton Hill in 2009 and used students from the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. When the Times decided to get out of hyperlocal news, CUNY J-School took over the site and renamed it. Meanwhile, in Sheepshead Bay and Bensonhurst, editor/publisher Berke is very involved in his two communities, and he’ll remain so as his sites become part of Corner Media.

Street Fight recently caught up with Zagare to learn more about what her two acquisitions will mean for their neighborhoods and her company:

How do the acquisitions of The Nabe and Sheepshead Bites and Bensonhurst Bean fit in with how Corner Media has been growing since you created it?
It is the next step in obtaining the kind of reach that would allow us to serve both our readers and advertisers better. Ned and I started in the hyperlocal field at about the same time, and are big fans of each others’ work. We had been talking about joining forces for a while, and this summer it finally happened. It is wonderful to have another incredibly smart and passionate person on our team, and it helps greatly that he has spent good six years thinking about how hyperlocal can work in an urban environment.

Did you go to outside investors to pay for the acquisitions?
No. All transactions were self-funded.

Are you changing the names of the sites?
We did change the name of The Nabe to Fort Greene Focus, and it continues to cover Fort Greene and Clinton Hill neighborhoods. Sheepshead Bites will remain. We will move all sites to the same templates so that the back-end is simpler.

The Nabe covered everything from lost pets to the “big news.” Sheepshead Bites and Bensonhurst Bean are wide-ranging too. Describe the news coverage model you’ll bring to these neighborhoods.
The news model is very much the same, maybe more focus on writing about the local businesses, food and events — the service end of local news. We believe in writing for our neighbors, and everyone wants to know what’s opening, closing, and where you can enjoy your dinner al fresco, in addition to the breaking news and coverage of our elected representatives.

Will you be hiring new staff or picking up any or all of the current staff from the acquired sites?
We have so far engaged everyone that was working on the sites we have acquired. We are very happy to be working with CUNY J-School and look forward to working with their students in the fall.

What’s your total reach with these acquisitions?
We have about 250,000 unique visitors/users (per Google Analytics) across the network a month, over 600,000 pageviews, and we cover a population of about 1 million.

Corner Media has grown rapidly, in news content and advertising. Is it making a profit?
We are in an aggressive growth stage, with both traffic and revenue growing rapidly, and we are where we want to be revenue-wise.

Do you see Corner Media continuing to grow in Brooklyn? How about the other boroughs?
There are a few more neighborhoods we’d like to add to our network, but we believe in responsible and sustainable growth, and will expand when the time is right and/or an opportunity presents itself.

Community news has had its ups and down in the past few years. Where do you think its headed?
I think regional clusters is a natural next step. We needed the ability to promote the neighborhoods we cover to each other. Merchants from Sheepshead Bay want to draw customers from Park Slope and Fort Greene, and regional advertisers need to reach people across the area. People have been asking us for years why we don’t have a site in this neighborhood or that, because they moved, and find themselves still reading news from the old neighborhood, and wishing they had the same resources available in the new.

It is possible to have a profitable solo site, as many have proved over and over again. That said, in a city, I feel like we are helping weave the neighborhoods closer together through a network that can spread the word rapidly, and there are obvious business advantages to having a wider network, while still allowing targeted ad buys that are site/neighborhood specific.

With seven sites now in Corner Media, will this change your advertising strategy in any significant way? Will you, for example, be moving toward nationally or regionally focused “programmatic advertising”?
Don’t know if that is a significant change, but yes, we are open to it. We support local, we are local, and we will always strive to have the feel of the neighborhoods we cover represented on our sites. We think of ads as content too, and any ads that are not local are priced at a premium.

Tom GrubisichTom Grubisich (@TomGrubisich) writes “The New News” column for Street Fight. He is editorial director of the in-development hyperlocal news network Local America that rates communities on their performance across a broad spectrum of livability — Local America Charleston launched earlier this year.

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