When we created Insider Louisville two years ago, if we had a plan, it was – modestly – to be the Chuck Yeager of Internet news.
We would keep experimenting with a digital-only design until we achieved what everyone told us was impossible – sufficient lift and velocity to stay aloft, flying free of legacy costs and earthbound thinking.
We didn’t invent flying, but we wanted to break the sound barrier.
In 2010, conventional newspapers had been shedding subscribers and revenue for years, unable to protect print revenues while trying to cope with the digital revolution.
Then came the Great Recession.
By 2010, CJ parent company Gannett Co. Inc. had laid off dozens of the best-known journalists in town.
We could not abide living in a city with such a void in local journalism.
We redoubled our efforts to bring energetic local reporting to our fair city.
It was clear to us that in the 21st Century, sophisticated readers were going to demand their information be delivered electronically, across multiple platforms.
It was the moment to find out if we’d fly, or crash and burn.
IL’s innovation is to bring to local markets a model that synthesizes blogging and primary-source reporting, aggregated news, investigative reporting and advocacy journalism, a hybrid for the demanding 21st Century information consumer.
Business has been our primary focus since our earliest days. Being business people ourselves, we recognize the need to address the other important aspects of our lives such as food, culture, music, the performing arts and local politics.
More than anything, we wanted to be a part of bringing Louisville into its next exciting phase of growth.
The first step was to generate sufficient web traffic and revenue for an extended flight.
We were pleasantly surprised how quickly we were able to find an audience who got what we were all about. This was especially true when you consider we had no money, marketing or adult supervision.
By one year in, charter IL stars such Steve Coomes, Brian Tucker, Tre Pryor, Doug Stern, Curtis Morrison and Steve Kaufman were drawing a solid base of readers.
And that solid base of readers enabled Insider Louisville 2.0 to actually start generating a bit of revenue.
We used all that money to pay the contributors helping us build the big, serious audience we have today, going from a handful of unique visitors to a monthly audience in the tens of thousands.
Now, the third iteration of IL … bringing in the grown-ups to help with the opportunity to increase our editorial coverage and our subscriber base.
About two weeks ago, we raised another round of funding. At the same time, Tom Cottingham became our CEO.
A lot of people who know the Internet startup space just fell out of theirs chairs, so we’re going to give them time to recover while we tell you about Tom.
Tom Cottingham is too young to be called a legend, but he’s at least a legend-in-training in the entrepreneurial world.
Tom and Doug Cobb started The Cobb Group back in the 1980s when nobody, but nobody, in Louisville understood how venture capital and technology were about to change the world.
Cobb Group – and this is going to sound counter-intuitive in the Internet age – printed newsletters for the first generation of techies at a time when many business sectors were just entering the computer age.
Tom and Doug sold The Cobb Group to Ziff-Davis in 1991. Ziff-Davis was sold twice in two years, and Tom moved on, grabbing Kim Spalding, Jon Pyles and Ken Hardin among others to launch another media company: NarrowCast Concepts.
Without turning this in to a history lesson, Narrow Cast was the beginning of his transition from the print products of the Cobb Group to Internet-based businesses including TechRepublic, which he sold to Gartner Group in 2001 and The NarrowCast Group which was sold to Quintstreet in 2011.
So, now what?
So, now we have the capital and management expertise to do great things. We are committed to bringing great talent to our Insider Louisville Team.
To that end, we brought Melissa Chipman in to help with editorial. Melissa is a former high school English teacher who decided she needed a more exciting life. Here’s everything you need to know about Melissa, who is our deputy director of content: She went to Start-up Weekend in September as a blogger, then was recruited by the top tech talent in town including Dave Durand.
She came home a key member of the winning team – and a partner in a fledgling Internet business.
We also brought in Ken Hardin, who has been a senior editorial manager and innovator in Cottingham-run companies since The Cobb Group days. We are looking forward to availing ourselves of his considerable expertise. Ken is a lifelong Louisvillian and is passionate about journalism and our city.
Former CJ sports columinst and investigative reporter Mark Coomes is working steadily on big investigative pieces.
Albrecht Stahmer, a former Louisvillian living in Tokyo, is an emerging IL star. Albrecht has written several posts about the possibility of an NBA team in Louisville, two of which have generated about 300 Facebook likes in the last week.
Finally, we now have someplace to put everyone, a very cozy space on East Market Street in NuLu.
This is an exciting time for Louisville. As you have been reading in IL, our city has been recognized in a number of positive ways in the past year. We are in what many consider to be the next American economic hotbed (see Meredith Whitney); we are investing in a comprehensive growth plan, and who knows, we might even get an NBA team.
This is an exciting time in journalism and in particular, local journalism.
The big media conglomerates (Gannett, Advance, et al) have dramatically reduced their local reporting resources as the print business model continues to implode.
Informed people today expect their news to be available electronically, across multiple platforms, and for their content to be local and trusted, not pulled off of a wire service.
This is one of those epochal times in American business where the old guard gives way to the new guard.
We expect to lead the parade.
PS - Thanks to all of our readers who took the time to fill out our brief survey last week. We were very encouraged by the tremendous response we received and look forward to using the information you gave us to create an even better product.