Brad Flora: How to not suck at online advertising and publishing

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Brad Flora: How to not suck at online advertising and publishing

  1. 1. WINDY CITIZEN How not to suck at online publishing and advertising Brad Flora @bradflora @windycitizen
  2. 2. Background •Founder, Windy Citizen.com •Prior: Princeton English (‘04), College admissions officer, Northwestern Journalism (’08) •Recently: Won 2010 Knight News Challenge •Find and pass along what’s hot in Chicago •Twitter: @windycitizen •Founded in May ‘08 •Bootstrapped company based in Chicago •Niche social network, 10,000 registered users, 100,000 uniques/month
  3. 3. What I did and learned in the last two years.
  4. 4. Context •Current iteration not actually first idea •Not an engineer •No advertising spend •No investment capital •Semi-hostile environment (news organizations not interested in covering) •Mostly done by non-technical people with some guidance but no prior experience
  5. 5. Environment: 2008 •Tribune + Sun-times in bankruptcy •City blogs on the rise (Chicagoist, Gapers Block) •Dozens of young, underemployed writers •Seemed like a no-brainer
  6. 6. Faulty Assumptions •Started with a pretty naive take on things •Traffic = Money •Content = Traffic •Journalism background gives me access to content •High quality content -> The Google -> Traffic -> ??? -> Profit!
  7. 7. "I don't do local politics. That ****'s boring.“ -My sister's cute friend (20-something Chicago-based consultant)
  8. 8. Building a local audience is HARD
  9. 9. Lessons Learned
  10. 10. Lessons Learned •Single-Threaded = Death
  11. 11. Lessons Learned •Single-Threaded = Death •If 1:1 relationship between growth and your effort, you’re doomed. •If single point of failure, you’re doomed.
  12. 12. Lessons Learned •Single-Threaded = Death •If 1:1 relationship between growth and your effort, you’re doomed. •No Point of View = Death
  13. 13. Lessons Learned Single-Threaded •Single-Threaded = Death •If 1:1 relationship between growth and your effort, you’re doomed. •No Point of View = Death
  14. 14. Average 20-something city dweller thinks: "I don't do local politics. That ****'s boring. Have you heard of Groupon?“ -My sister's cute friend (20-something Chicago-based consultant)
  15. 15. Lessons Learned •Single-Threaded = Death
  16. 16. Lessons Learned •Single-Threaded = Death •No Point of View = Death
  17. 17. Lessons Learned •Single-Threaded = Death •If 1:1 relationship between growth and your effort, you’re doomed. •No Point of View = Death
  18. 18. Lessons Learned STRONG POV •Single-Threaded = Death •If 1:1 relationship between growth and your effort, you’re doomed. •No Point of View = Death
  19. 19. Lessons Learned •Single-Threaded = Death •If 1:1 relationship between growth and your effort, you’re doomed. •No Point of View = Death
  20. 20. Lessons Learned POV WEAK •Single-Threaded = Death •If 1:1 relationship between growth and your effort, you’re doomed. •No Point of View = Death
  21. 21. Average 20-something city dweller thinks: "I don't do local politics. That ****'s boring. Have you heard of Groupon?“ -My sister's cute friend (20-something Chicago-based consultant)
  22. 22. The Internet: Where sane people go to read and experience crazy things.
  23. 23. Lessons Learned •Single-Threaded = Death •No Point of View = Death
  24. 24. Lessons Learned •Single-Threaded = Death •No Point of View = Death •Make something people want
  25. 25. Public Enemy #1: Journo-Think Journalist-turned-entrepreneur thinks: “Local public affairs reporting is important! Therefore, there’s demand for it.”
  26. 26. Average 20-something city dweller thinks: "I don't do local politics. That ****'s boring. Have you heard of Groupon?“
  27. 27. Average 20-something city dweller thinks: "I don't do local politics. That ****'s boring. Have you heard of Groupon?“ -My sister's cute friend (20-something Chicago-based consultant)
  28. 28. Plan B •Place to share your favorite local links •Addressed single-threaded problem •Addressed point of view problem •The Year •Phase 1: The Routine •Phase 2: Ads •Phase 3: Sell, sell, sell
  29. 29. "I don't do local politics. That ****'s boring.“ -My sister's cute friend (20-something Chicago-based consultant)
  30. 30. Plan B •Place to share your favorite local links •Addressed single-threaded problem •Addressed point of view problem •The Year •Phase 1: The Routine •Phase 2: Ads •Phase 3: Sell, sell, sell
  31. 31. The Pivot
  32. 32. Problem: Had to figure out how to make money. Wanted to sell ads.
  33. 33. The Problem With Banner Ads •Learned early on that banner ads weren't going to work for Windy Citizen •Pricing is terrible •Audience too small to get into large ad networks that actually pay •Ad networks serve irrelevant ads •Needed to do direct sales, needed to have a product that would justify direct sales
  34. 34. How do you add value to an ad? •Advertising friends: "Targeting!" •Another idea, what if you gave them more control over their ad creative? •People pay for convenience, not the actual product, what if that applied to an online ad?
  35. 35. Real-Time Ads •Launched first one in September '09 •Price it on a negotiated monthly basis rather than CPM •Improved the design •Numbers steadily improved
  36. 36. Opportunity
  37. 37. Knight News Challenge •Annual innovation challenge (http://newschallenge.org) •$5 million dollars to new ideas for the news industry •Funded Everyblock
  38. 38. Knight News Challenge •A tortured history
  39. 39. Knight News Challenge •A tortured history •2008: Applied with Windy Citizen Idea (Cut in first round)
  40. 40. Knight News Challenge •A tortured history •2008: Applied with Windy Citizen Idea (Cut in first round) •2009: Applied a year into Windy Citizen (Cut in final round)
  41. 41. Knight News Challenge •A tortured history •2008: Applied with Windy Citizen Idea (Cut in first round) •2009: Applied a year into Windy Citizen (Cut in final round) •2010: Applied with a business making (some) money…
  42. 42. WINNER!
  43. 43. NowSpots: New Company (!) •Providing real-time advertising tech to newspapers and other local publishers Going to save newspapers by giving them better, smarter tech.
  44. 44. NowSpots: New Company •Providing real-time advertising tech to newspapers and other local publishers •Better prepared this time around •Able to draw on contacts made through WC to find first customers and build our founding team •Web: NowSpots.com •Twitter: @nowspots •Launching Fall 2010!
  45. 45. Digging for gold -> Selling Shovels
  46. 46. NowSpots.com •Web: NowSpots.com •Twitter: @nowspots •Launching Fall 2010! If you care about the future of newspapers, join our e-mail list.
  47. 47. NowSpots: New Company •Providing real-time advertising tech to newspapers and other local publishers •Better prepared this time around •Able to draw on contacts made through WC to find first customers and build our founding team •Web: NowSpots.com •Twitter: @nowspots •Launching Fall 2010!
  48. 48. Recap •Your first idea really does probably suck. •Single threaded doesn’t work. •You have to have a point of view. •If people aren’t reading and sharing your content, it’s probably because your stuff sucks. •The only thing worse than making these mistakes is chickening out for fear of making these mistakes. •While working on your less great ideas, you might come up with much better ones.
  49. 49. Thank You! Questions? Contact me on Twitter: @bradflora Get your Chicago fix: @windycitizen Help save newspapers! @nowspots

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