I guess by delivering a very specific marketing message to what that audience is looking for. For example, maybe if you’re running a print ad in The Columbus Dispatch, and it’s a wider, more general audience, maybe you have marketing and messaging for your business that is meant to get the attention of everyone reading the newspaper. Whereas, working with Columbus Underground, you know that you’re appealing to twenty-four- to forty-year-olds who have some sort of connection to the central city, so they’re interested in very specific things. Let’s say, if your restaurant has a wide variety of food options, but you’ve got a happy hour where you’re featuring PBR on draft, you know that that’s going to be something that’s going to catch the attention of this younger audience, then that would be something that we’ll encourage our advertisers to really play up.

I would imagine that the fact that you got online early helped you really establish yourself as a cultural website. There’s so much more competition now. Are there things you would do differently if you were to start a website now?

Oh, definitely. We actually launched a companion website back in August, called TheMetropreneur.com, which is another hyperlocal central-Ohio-based resource, but that focused on small business and entrepreneurship, and it’s been great to take everything we had learned in the first nine years to apply to launching this new site. But I definitely think that with the growth of the different types of local information that are online now, you really have to drill down, be very specific, have very unique, interesting content. In the early days, we almost acted more as a content aggregator—because we didn’t have a fulltime staff, we didn’t have journalism backgrounds—and I don’t think something like that flies as well today. I think you have to have something unique if you want to build an audience, establish credibility, and really make it something that’s sustainable.

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