NEW YORK — News organizations have long seen value in their ability to connect people: linking citizens to public officials, advertisers to readers, and so on. But in today’s nichified media world, media companies are finding it worthwhile to forge connections that are segmented in the same ways content now is.
That can be as simple as having your political columnist host a political trivia night for readers — or it can be at the heart of your business model. For Technically Media, it’s the latter. The tech news startup gets only about a tenth of its revenue from traditional advertising; its money comes from being useful to the entrepreneurial communities in the cities it covers.
“We just think there’s a real need to create a mentality that the Northeast corridor is very much connected and very much can be sharing resources.”
Bringing together tech-minded East Coasters is driving the tech news startup’s latest expansion plan. Technically Media launched as Technically Philly in Philadelphia four years ago and expanded to Baltimore over the summer. Now, cofounder Brian James Kirk says they’ll launch Technically Brooklyn in the first half of 2013 — they’re looking for founding sponsors now — then Technically Boston and Technically D.C. shortly thereafter. (Oh, hey, they already have the related Twitter accounts.)
As the brand grows, it’s morphing. “Editorial coverage is still going to be a vital part of what we do, and I think it’s kind of a differentiator for us,” Kirk said. “But I can’t say for sure how the team will come together as we approach new markets. Content is what drives interest. We’ve always considered ourselves journalists. We’ve always been interested in hyperlocal coverage and being connected to the community.”
The community, as Kirk sees it, doesn’t just mean the tech scene in Philly or the tech scene in Baltimore. Instead, he envisions a tech corridor that runs from Washington, D.C., all the way up to Boston. (Kind of like Amtrak’s Northeast Regional, only with better wifi.)
Technically Media hopes providing a multi-city tech connection is what will set it apart — especially as it’s trying to make a name for itself in cities where the local-tech-coverage scene is significantly more crowded than Philly’s and Baltimore’s were.
Kirk and his team bandied about the idea of focusing their expansion in underserved cities like Detroit and New Orleans. Places like New York have no shortage of tech writers. In Boston, the field already includes BostInno, Xconomy, The Hive, and more.
Still, Kirk says he doesn’t see Brooklyn as a next-level proving ground — the expansion to Baltimore was the true test, he insists — but rather a natural fit for a site that has heretofore focused on post-industrial cities with nascent tech communities. In other words, Brooklyn makes sense because it’s kind of the Philly of New York (with apologies to people from all of those cities, who surely cringe at the comparison).
“Brooklyn really resonates to us in the way that it is a smaller part of a bigger community in New York,” Kirk said. “It has 2.5 million people. That reminds me a lot of Philadelphia. And there’s still a divide between affluent folks and less privileged folks, so there’s still a lot of issues to be covered in terms of digital access, how they’re approaching policy, how they’re trying to get tech companies to come, changing their infrastructure to support that — in many ways it reminded us of Philadelphia.”
As cities along the East Coast grapple with the kinds of issues Technically Media covers, why not bring together leaders of those individual communities? What Kirk calls “the information exchange” across communities will become potentially more valuable than the city-specific “tech week” events that have been at the center of Technically Media’s business model so far.
“How many similar conversations are happening?” Kirk said. “For example, in partnership with a Baltimore organization, we brought 20 to 30 technoogists from Baltimore up to Philly to tour [and discuss] digital divide issues. We brought the CIO of the city from Baltimore to meet with the CTO in Philadelphia. We organize the entire day, we toured the Baltimore folks through Philadelphia, and then we wrote about it in both markets.
“We just think there’s a real need to create a mentality that the Northeast Corridor is very much connected and very much can be sharing resources. So you create that shared mentality that it’s not just Philly, it’s not just New York, it’s not just Boston, it’s not just D.C. It’s all these places working together.”
Photo of the Brooklyn Bridge by Sue Waters used under a Creative Commons license.