Third Coast Daily, the online publication where I was a partner and senior editor between August of 2009 and Sept. 2 of this year, has changed hands. My friend John Shannon, who bought TCD in September of 2012, has sold it to Urban Milwaukee, led by publisher Dave Reid and president Jeramey Jannene.
knows TCD intimately. He built TCD's site and was its contract
webmaster from the beginning (March 2009). Bruce Murphy, former
Milwaukee magazine editor and Journal Sentinel reporter, joined Urban
Milwaukee as editor some time ago and will oversee both publications.
Milwaukee has always focused on politics, land use, urban planning and
design and the economics of all that. TCD had ceased hard news about a
year ago and became more focused on the arts and lifestyle, with strong
travel and fashion coverage in addition to Milwaukee's most complete
arts coverage. Together, the two publications will be Milwaukee's only
full news and features online-only daily. It will command a
hefty audience from the outset, and it's not beyond this team to build
revenue alone will never be enough to support a professional operation.
Jannene and Reid have sold branded t-shirts, artwork and other such
items for a long time. They can market these things to an expanded
audience through a more robust website. That's good, but insufficient.
make any real money, UM/TCD will have to generate significant reader
support. Forget about pay walls, they just drive readers elsewhere. You
have to make your audience love and identify with you to the point that
they will pay a little something to keep you going, even though they get
no tax deduction, as they do with public radio.
give them incentives and go to special lengths to make them care. Someone charismatic must be the face of the organization. You
must give them stuff, personal attention and special discounts to
profitable events related to travel, fashion and the arts. That will
require dedicated personnel and a marketing effort beyond social media.
Those things cost money, and they will take a year or two to show much
I learned the hard way at TCD that you can't build
a business of this sort out of sweat equity alone. You must have
capital investment. I estimated that investment for TCD to be in the
neighborhood of $600,000 to staff up, launch revenue initiatives and
stabilize the company for two years.
We didn't have
$600,000 -- or $600 -- for capital development. Every penny that came in
immediately went out to meet our tiny payroll and keep the lights on.
Our marketing budget weighed in at about $150 a year. We tried now and then to put on special events, but we had to stage them ourselves with no money. They wore us out and never really worked. We never could put the building
blocks for success into place.
UM/TCD is a good idea
and they have some talent. (They'll have a lot more if they bring the
excellent Matthew Reddin, current TCD managing editor, onto the team).
It fills an obvious niche in the market and it will attract eyeballs.
But without capital, it's going nowhere. The bottom-line question: Are
the pockets deep enough -- or are investors daring enough -- to make it work?
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