A hyperlocal (and entrepreneurial) news pioneer

capecodtoday.pngCAPE COD, MASSACHUSETTS — CapeCodToday, one of the first hyperlocal news websites in the nation, and reports on all things Cape Cod. Topics the site covers include politics, arts and culture, business, education, and sports. Walter Brooks, founder of CapeCodToday, is a veteran journalist with over half a century of experience. Prior to establishing the site, Brooks wrote for The Village Voice, the New York Post, and The Cape Codder, a weekly newspaper in the area. Beginning in the mid-1990s, Brooks sensed that newspapers were too reliant on national wire services for stories, rather than reporting local news. Brooks founded CapeCodToday in February 1997 as a response to public demand for the kind of hyperlocal news that area newspapers lacked. Over the years, CapeCodToday expanded its media content, and now hosts over 300 local blogs. With over 75,000 monthly readers, CapeCodToday looks to distinguish itself from other local media outlets by providing news that is “hyperlocal, fun, and informative,” according to Brooks.

[Profile updated March 5, 2013]

  • Read more about
    • CapeCodToday employs four full-time staffers including two editors (Walter Brooks and managing editor Maggie Kulbokas), a president/CEO (Julie Brooks, Walter’s daughter-in-law), and a general manager/treasurer (Jay Brooks, Walter’s son). The site also employs seven online sales people and ten to twelve part-time and freelance writers. Approximately 80 percent of the site is comprised of original content and blogs, and the remaining 20 percent are aggregated stories from various media outlets reporting on Cape Cod. The website produces at least eighty original stories weekly, and the vast majority of these are on local political and environmental topics. The community blog hosting feature was added in April 2005, and each of the 300 plus blogs is devoted to commenting and writing about Cape Cod and the surrounding area.

      Regular editorial features include a daily column written by Brooks on Cape Cod history; he writes a brief story on a significant event that occurred in Cape Cod’s past on that day. CapeCodToday also provides reporting on the local courts, and has just begun to provide its online readers with a digital version of that smalltown newspaper classic, the police blotter. In 2012, Brooks hired reporters to cover the local education beat. The website has ventured into publishing e-books that readers can access for free. cc2day Magazine–tagline: “When online readers want to read books”–provides readers with a whole host of original books set in Cape Cod and Massachusetts. Some books are published in their entirety, while others are published chapter by chapter, as they are still works in progress.

      All revenues for the website are garnered through advertisements. Currently, CapeCodToday showcases 500 of its past and current advertisers through the business directory section of the website. The directory serves as a hyperlocal listing for Cape Cod businesses. According to Brooks, the site has continued to grow in traffic even after 16 years in the business. Traffic jumped 30% from 2011 to 2012. Brooks is proud of his family-owned business and the old school style of selling advertising. “We have thoroughly trained sales people banging on doors the way successful media has always prospered,” he says.

      Success hasn’t made Brooks greedy. The eighty-year-old newsman is concerned for the future of local print newspapers throughout the country, and wants to encourage their publishers to visit a website he’s set up––for advice on how to start a CapeCodToday-style online revenue earner in their own communities, thus staving off print atrophy and saving local reporting.

      “It’s time my old newspaper friends to remember the warning Henry Luce’s wife, Clare Booth Luce, gave us all a half century ago,” he says. That advice: “The money is always out there – only the pockets change.” Data



City: Cape Cod

Has America ever needed a media watchdog more than now? Help us by joining CJR today.

Dohini Patel is a contributor to CJR.