The Big Business of Local News: Main Street Connect
BY Nicole Carter
In early 2010, Jane Byrant Quinn and Carll Tucker launched a community-based news website. Today they compete with AOL. Here's how they changed the game.
In early 2010, journalist Jane Bryant Quinn and her entrepreneur husband, Carll Tucker, launched a community-based news website called The Daily Norwalk in southern Connecticut. The idea quickly grew into Main Street Connect, which now has 120 employees and produces 51 online dailies spread across Connecticut, New York, and Massachusetts. After recently raising $14 million in funding, Quinn and Tucker plan to take the model national, which in some markets will put Main Street Connect in direct competition with AOL's similarly conceived Patch.com. Here, Quinn and Tucker talk with Inc.com's Nicole Carter.
Why go local? Tucker: First, we knew early on that our readers weren't necessarily going to be news junkies. Our target reader is a young mother of school-age children who owns her own home. Why? Because a kid and a home are a person's two biggest investments. News around those investments is not something locals want to know; it's news they need to know. Quinn: So going into these smaller markets, we expanded the coverage from just sports and crime. We also cover schools, community politics, board meetings, and real estate. It's more comprehensive and relevant to our reader.
On the business side, what has been the biggest challenge so far? Tucker: We have to make sure that local businesses know about us and understand our value as an advertising medium. We have to show that we have much more than just banner advertising. We have a Local Heroes section, where a business can sponsor a local hero—like a sports coach or local soldier in Kabul or even one of the business's employees. Another section lets businesses promote a happy customer in our Customer Comes First section.
How do you compete with AOL? Tucker: Local businesses know us not just as an advertising medium but as the place they see their kids' Little League results. We are a neighbor. That's hugely advantageous and gives us an edge.
As you scale up, how do you keep a handle on quality? Quinn: Quality is a priority—and so is quantity. It's a balance. We train managing editors so they can teach the reporters. Our news is not user generated. We have a copy desk that fact checks. We put out several stories per site per day, but it's coming out of a structured newsroom. It's old-fashioned news coming out in a new way.
To see an interview with Tucker and Quinn, visit www.inc.com/inctv.