PLYMOUTH, MASSACHUSETTS — For almost two decades, editor and publisher Walter Brooks and his family have run online media ventures in several Massachusetts communities. Starting in the early months of 1996, Brooks helped launch the online edition of the vacation guide Best Read Guide/Cape Cod. Just a year later, he started the hyperlocal news site CapeCodToday.com—an early example of the hyperlocal genre, which CJR profiled in 2011. Around 2000, Brooks and his wife, son, and daughter-in-law set up eCape.com as a separate IT and web marketing corporation. In 2010, PlymouthDailyNews.com, a hyperlocal site serving Plymouth Massachussetts, became the latest addition to the family business. (With the exception of the vacation guide, all of the ventures are incorporated under eCape.com, of which Brooks’s daughter-in-law is president and CEO.)
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Plymouth Daily News offers local news for residents of Plymouth and the five surrounding towns that are part of Barnstable County: Carver, Duxbury, Kingston, Plympton, and Wareham. The site runs five to seven news items per day on average, says Brooks, and regularly features quick-hit hyperlocal news items on everything from crime and business to politics and travel. Recent stories include a piece on contractors in the area who were cited for failing to pay workers, as well as a brief alert to residents about an upcoming special election. The site’s homepage showcases other, more unique features, including a list of the day’s events in the community, weekly reader polls, and a business directory.
Brooks serves as editor for both Cape Cod Today and Plymouth Daily News; a managing editor, Maggie Kulbokas, also works on both sites. Beyond them, the Plymouth Daily News staff includes a part-time community editor, a part-time sales employee, and half a dozen freelance writers who come and go as needed (political writers are generally brought on board during election seasons, for instance). A dozen local volunteer bloggers regularly post on the site. Brooks says that he and Kulbokas dedicate about 80 percent of their time to CapeCodToday.com and 20 percent to PlymouthDailyNews.com.
The community editor, Matthew Nadler, also runs a news site for two Plymouth neighborhoods called The Manomet Current, which CJR profiled in 2011. “In the interest of good community journalism,” says Brooks, Nadler was not asked to suspend the site in order to work with Plymouth Daily News.
Although Brooks declines to give specific revenue figures, he says the year-old site is “nearing break even.” 100 percent of the revenue is derived from ad sales; rates are posted on the site.
PlymouthDailyNews.com—which has a Facebook page and Twitter handle—received 70,000 unique visitors in its first year, according to Brooks. In the future, he hopes to expand current features of the website while adding new ones, such as obituaries and local court reports. A large-scale re-design of PlymouthDailyNews.com and CapeCodToday.com is also underway, and will hopefully be completed this spring. A mobile-friendly version of the site’s business directory may be on the horizon, and, following what has been a successful model for Cape Cod Today, Plymouth Daily News may soon be joined by a host of niche content outlets for the Plymouth area, including sites focused on weddings, kids, seniors, business, and shopping. Launch dates have not yet been confirmed.
Brooks is all rapture when describing his transition from newspapers to the web: “There is never a need to cut a story, or leave one out because of available space. Our newsprint is in the cloud, and literally, the sky is the limit.”
Plymouth Daily News Data
Name: Plymouth Daily News
Principal Staff: Walter Brooks, publisher and editor; Maggie Kulbokas, managing editor; Matthew Nadler, community editor; Julie Brooks, president & CEO.
Affiliations: Parent company: eCape.com; Sister site: CapeCodToday.com.