I think if we could do TBD with a pure startup mentality, and if we could fund it more with a V.C. or an angel kind of way, and if we didn’t have the legacy side to work with, then I think it would actually have a better chance to succeed. I wouldn’t have said that before. When I first got there, I felt that the TV piece of it was a huge element—to be able to get that kind of promotion from a TV station with such a big audience, that that would sort of jettison us into immediate relevance. The irony of it was, we got a lot of media relevance immediate relevance without much promotion from Channel 7 at all. There was no money spent on external marketing of TBD—to this day, there hasn’t been any. There haven’t been any ads for TBD on the buses, or the metro stations, or anywhere in town, and Channel 7 hasn’t promoted it nearly as much as I would have expected.

So now I’ve kind of come out on the other side of it, saying, you know, if you are really aggressive with social media, and you work hard to market it yourself, you can actually build these things out without necessarily having a relationship with a legacy brand. In some senses it might even be better, because you wouldn’t have to deal with some of the tensions that we dealt with. And then, external factors elsewhere in the company wouldn’t end up having a major impact on your fate. Your fate would be a little bit more in your own hands.

Do you have a sense of what TBD will look like going forward, and how it will fit into the DC media world?

That’s going to be the real question, which is, How will it distinguish itself now as an arts and entertainment niche site, in a town that already has a fair amount of people focused on that particular niche? I don’t know. I think it’s going to be hard. It sure feels like to me this is the beginning—or maybe midway through—a slow, painful death. Even as an entertainment niche site, it doesn’t look like what we drew up on the blackboard a year ago. But I hope I’m wrong. I certainly wish everyone there the best, because those are all people I know and played a part in hiring. I just think that the problem with going entertainment-niche is, now you’re doing something that a lot of other people are doing, and you don’t have a lot that distinguishes you. In the web world, your strategy has to be focused on doing things other people are not doing—rather than trying to do something that people are already doing, better.

Lauren Kirchner is a freelance writer covering digital security for CJR. Find her on Twitter at @lkirchner