WINDSOR, CONNECTICUT — Like many married couples, Christine Stuart and Doug Hardy share a weekly ritual. Unlike most married couples, theirs involves obsessing over state politics. Stuart and Hardy spend their Thursday nights preparing the “Friday Night Fix.” The “Fix” is a weekly e-mail roundup of Connecticut political news, covering everything from the state’s most recent budget battle to the fate of a particular piece of legislation to the latest published op-eds discussing campaign finance. The Fix has become a staple of their Connecticut based, all-things-political news site, CTNewsJunkie.
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As the name might suggest, the niche site appeals to political junkies throughout the Nutmeg State. As Hardy explains, “It’s an insider audience…people who are involved in specific special interests, people who are locally elected officials, people who are statewide elected officials, anybody with a stake in the game is reading this, and that’s enough.” Despite its focus on an insider audience, the site still manages to attract well over 100,000 page views a month. According to its own traffic data, the site broke its record for page views in April 2011 with 173,000. This was accomplished with help from the launch of the site’s new Connecticut tech industry vertical CTTechJunkie, as well as a new daily e-mail blast in addition to the weekly “Fix” roundup.
Stuart took over the site from Dan Levine , a former state capitol reporter for the Connecticut Law Tribune and the Hartford Advocate, who launched the site in 2005. After scoring a job offer to work for The Recorder in San Francisco, Levine sold the fledgling CTNewsJunkie to Stuart, who at the time worked as a reporter for the
Journal Inquirer in Manchester, Conn. Stuart and Levine had previously worked together at the Advocate, where Stuart had covered state politics and the legislature. When Levine was ready to move on, he approached Stuart about taking over the site.
The first couple of years were slow going for the politically driven startup, but this would all soon change. In the first years of Stuart’s ownership, Doug Hardy’s role in CTNewsJunkie was limited. (They were not yet married when Stuart bought the site.) “I did a little copy editing, but mostly stayed out of [Christine’s] way,” Hardy says. Then a reporter for the Inquirer, Hardy had clocked just over fourteen years at the paper, but was excited by what he saw as the value and potential of Stuart’s site. He kept his regular job at the paper, but began working on the site more and more. As Hardy puts it, “I realized that there was plenty to do for CTNewsJunkie if I wanted a role, and so I kind of dove in with her.”
Towards the end of 2007, also around the time they were married, the couple decided to initiate an e-mail blast geared towards state legislators. This gesture, as Hardy describes it, was a turning point for the site. “It was the catalyst, it was the ‘aha’ moment. We just watched our traffic grow…within ten weeks we had quintupled our traffic.”
Advertisers soon took notice. “The ball started rolling, advertisers started to be interested,” Hardy says. “Since then we’ve been growing steadily.” Ads for Connecticut based companies and causes are the primary source of revenue for the site. Hardy left his job at the Inquirer in March of 2011 to work full-time for the News Junkie as business manager. The site accepts donations and has also partnered with Connecticut based LocalOnlineNews.tv for election night podcasts. In January of 2011, Hardy and Lon Seidman, the managing partner at LocalOnlineNews, launched the Independent Media Network, an organization that will serve as an ad- and content-sharing network for independent news web sites throughout Connecticut.
Stuart serves as CTNewsJunkie’s editor and lead capitol reporter, spending nearly every day reporting stories from the statehouse. Stories of note include reporting on cuts to state unions, the resignation of the Commissioner of the Department of Transportation, and the arrest of a local lawmaker.
In March 2011, CTNewsJunkie started a new daily e-mail blast called “Morning Coffee and Politics.” Briefer and less formal than the “Fix,” “Coffee and Politics” is inspired by Politico’s Playbook, and thus consists of part news rehashing, part “political gossip,” aiming to be easily perused by a capitol insider during his or her morning coffee. E-mail subscriptions have been crucial to the site. As Hardy explains, “There are a lot of people at the capitol who are older and just don’t surf the web, but they read their e-mail and they love this. It’s like a newspaper showing up on your door.”
Principal Staff: Christine Stuart, editor; Doug Hardy, business manager.
NewHavenIndependent.org; ValleyIndependentSentinel.org; LocalOnlineNews.TV; OnTheHorn.com; CTWatchdog.com. Business: NewHavenIndependent.org pays a monthly stipend for NewsJunkie content.