SIOUX FALLS, SOUTH DAKOTA — [Editor’s note: The Post ceased publication in July 2011. A note on the site in late 2011 and early 2012 promised a relaunch, but it never materialized. The site is down, but was last captured by the Internet Archive in February 2012.]
The Post, a story co-op site in which a team of volunteers and staff create and publish content, was founded by Heather Mangan in 2009 to cover stories that were not being covered by traditional media. Published by 9 Clouds, Inc., a social media marketing and consulting firm in Sioux Falls, The Post has created an Internet savvy brand that is shaping its own unique identity in the South Dakota journalism world. The staff of editor-in-chief Joe O’Sullivan and editor and publications head Megan Brandsrud, both of whom work part-time, contribute the majority of news stories, but the site also publishes human interest-style features from rising South Dakotan writers—the best of whom earn the right to regularly contribute as feature story columnists.
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The Post provides a unique blend of content that brings citizen journalism out of the realm of the community calendar and into human interest feature writing. According to O’Sullivan, who took over as editor-in-chief in the summer of 2010 (after Mangan moved to Niger to join the Peace Corps), Mangan was originally inspired by the possibility of creating a site where South Dakotans could express their unique stories and perspectives. She approached John and Scott Meyer at 9 Clouds about the idea. Although primarily a social media consultancy, 9 Clouds decided to support the project because of its appeal to a young, high tech audience—the kind of audience it tries to attract for its clients. The Post’s owner and publisher, 9 Clouds handles the majority of the business aspects of site, including advertising, promotion, and graphic design—a division of labor that frees O’Sullivan and Brandsrud to focus on content production and editing. (9 Clouds is perhaps the first social media consulting firm to take an interest in the book publishing industry, and is working on a volume that will feature the “best of” The Post’s stories. The book will be released in 2011.)
Although O’Sullivan has plenty on his hands as the site’s editor-in-chief, he also holds a day job as a reporter at the Casper Star-Tribune in Wyoming. Brandsrud is a senior undergraduate student in mass communications and journalism at Augustana College who originally started working at The Post in May 2010 as an intern. Travis Entenman, a student at South Dakota State University, serves as the photo editor. The staff works from the 9 Clouds office in Sioux Falls.
Though the staff writes much of the site’s content themselves, crowdsourced stories are at the heart of The Post’s mission and personality. One of the most popular articles written by a South Dakota resident was “A Sioux Falls girl in Spain,” which was a first person account from a Sioux Falls retiree who moved to southern Spain with her husband. Another well-received story was “Gutcheck 212,” which described a bicyclist’s journey across the entire state of South Dakota. The Post also offered perspectives on why hundreds of residents were willing to wait for hours (and withstand criticism from passerby) to attend a Sarah Palin book signing.
Although the human interest articles are by far the most common feature on the site, The Post does manage to break the occasional piece of news. It was the first South Dakota publication to reveal expanded charges against the alleged operaters of a prostitution ring.
The partnership with 9 Clouds came with unique benefits such as a strong social media presence on sites like Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube. The majority of The Post’s visitors find the site and its stories through links in tweets and through their Facebook page, which is home to more than 1,030 “Likes.” South Dakota is no Silicon Valley, but The Post and 9 Clouds are focused on capturing the eighteen- to thirty-five-year-old audience that is active in the social media community.
The Post has had some success in gaining revenue through sponsorships from local businesses. Good Spirits Fine Wine and Liquor, a Sioux Falls small business, sponsors The Post’s notable column “Pitchers and Pints,” which features South Dakota local Ty Omoth’s musings and expertise about local beers and brewing companies. Falls Food, a website that hosts drawings for free food at local Sioux Falls restaurants, streams The Post’s news on its website in exchange for ads in The Post. Sunny 92.1 FM, an 80’s pop radio station, previews The Post’s news during its broadcasts. The concentrated efforts to create partnerships with local businesses has helped The Post generate 1000 visitors a week, up 40 percent from its first year of operations. The site is still rather young, but O’Sullivan and the Meyers hope to one day hire full-time writers, and have set a goal of tripling current revenues.
The Post covers all things South Dakota from local concerts to sports to politics. Its specialty, however, remains in presenting stories from a uniquely South Dakotan perspective—even when that South Dakotan is living in Spain. It’s the lens through which The Post views the world, more than any content in specific, which marks its value to the state.
The Post Data
Name: The Post
City: Sioux Falls
Principal Staff: Scott Meyer, publisher; John Meyer, publisher; Joe O’Sullivan, editor-in-chief; Megan Brandsrud, managing editor.
Affiliations: Falls Food; Sunny Radio FM 92.1; Good Spirits Fine Wine.