RICHARDSON, TEXAS — Pegasus News was made to cover an event like the state fair of Texas. Both are large-scale, interactive, and can fry something up for everyone. Over 2.5 million people attend the fair each year, the largest in the country, and from the end of September to the event’s conclusion three weeks later, Pegasus News adds a special homepage tab directing curious fair-goers to everything they need to know.
Layered stories with diverse categories of information allow Pegasus to really spread its wings. In the state fair coverage, for instance, readers can find a staff feature on the fair’s bizarre tradition of frying absolutely everything—including “fried beer“—or find a full listing of coupons, or watch a citizen-contributed video about where to find gluten-free fair food. Once readers are convinced that attending will be the cultural highlight of the month, Pegasus provides an event profile with gate times, a map, and a link to buy a ticket.
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Such comprehensive coverage, which blends professional content, contributions by local bloggers, and a human-compiled database of arts events and restaurants, has made Pegasus News one of the largest community information portals in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, attracting over 300,000 unique visitors a month.
This hybrid between entertainment guide and hyperlocal news outlet was the brainchild of media entrepreneur Mike Orren, who had previously led a relaunch of the lifestyle publication D Magazine. Orren founded Pegasus News in 2005, and soon thereafter introduced a unique membership mechanism called The Daily You. When users sign up for a free account, The Daily You starts tagging the articles they read, with the aim of delivering Pegasus News content that has been customized to the users’ viewing patterns. This model earned attention amongst broadcast businesses, and Orren negotiated the sale of his site to a national parent company, Archstream Media, in 2009. Archstream has since incorporated The Daily You into its broadcast markets in Shreveport, Louisiana and Tyler, Texas, where the company is replicating the Pegasus News model to build community information hubs.
In December 2010, Orren left Pegasus News on good terms and handed over responsibility to his managing editor, Sarah Blaskovich. As a graduate of the Missouri School of Journalism and former editor of SUCCESS Magazine, Blaskovich says she keeps values of accuracy and newsworthiness in mind while pursuing the site’s mission, which she says is to “focus on a truly local perspective, covering stories and events that traditional media won’t.”
Maintaining a local focus often requires zooming in on specific neighborhoods, even a few square blocks, and looking for unique content that the mainstream media has missed. An example is the Pegasus News series on locals in reality television. Other quirky features that might not be found in the traditional Sunday paper include a news sub-section devoted entirely to lost and found pets and, for those owners mourning a missing pet, an interactive map geo-tagged with daily drink specials around the city.
“There is something to be said for news that makes you feel something,” says Blaskovich. “News in your area that’s down the street from you, it stirs emotions—and we want that.”
In addition to six full-time paid editorial staff, and two dozen freelance writers and photographers—most of whom are paid—there are over one hundred partner blogs from the Dallas-Fort Worth area that have been carefully selected by content partner editor Alex Bentley to have articles republished on Pegasus News in exchange for link-backs to the partner’s site. These partnerships provide both exposure for local writers and niche material for Pegasus News, as evidenced by the widely read article on celebrations outside President Bush’s Dallas home after Osama bin Laden’s death, which was reported by Southern Methodist University’s Daily Campus and then published on Pegasus News.
“With the bin Laden coverage, we were able to offer a local piece of the puzzle to a national story,” says Blaskovich.
Pegasus News targets revenue through banner advertising and sponsorship’s of the site’s e-mail newsletter. It’s also the Dallas affiliate for Seize the Deal, a daily retail coupon service similar to Groupon that is owned by Townsquare Media.
Besides news content, Pegasus also hosts a directory of over 200,000 local businesses. An additional directory contains the area’s largest listing of bands, musicians and concerts, which, at over 2,400 entries, Blaskovich considers a kind of “local encyclopedia.” Fans can see when a band is set to perform, and also find recommendations for similar bands in the area. Both the business and music directories are updated continuously by two staffers.
“The database is our foundation,” says Blaskovich. “And then you put good content on top of it.”
Pegasus News is full of diverse, far-reaching content, and it maintains a certain independent spirit—which, in these ways and more, is very Texas.
Pegasus News Data
Name: Pegasus News
Principal Staff: Sarah Blaskovich, editor; Shannon Sutlief, database editor.
Affiliations: Google News, Star Community Newspapers
CMS: Django Custom System