DAVIDSON, NORTH CAROLINA — David Boraks, a veteran journalist of thirty years and long-time resident of Davidson, N.C., started DavidsonNews.net after returning from a year abroad in China and Taiwan. Upon returning home, Boraks found that staying updated on current news was not as easy as he had remembered, and so he started an online town newsletter. The newsletter soon evolved into a full-blown news website devoted to the town of Davidson. The site launched in 2006, and Boraks is now expanding the DavidsonNews model to the nearby town of Cornelius.
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The content of DavidsonNews.net includes events, town politics, local sports, and education news for both the local school system as well as Davidson College. Davidson is a suburban town twenty miles north of Charlotte with approximately 10,000 residents, and DavidsonNews distinguishes itself with its exclusive focus on local news (as opposed to larger publications in the area, which cover news for Charlotte as well as multiple suburbs.) The site is mindful of its suburban audience, and devotes lifestyle coverage to subjects important to suburban families such as pets, events at churches, health and fitness, and real estate developments. On any given day, DavidsonNews.net may have three to six new general news articles on its homepage. The site also selectively posts excerpts from local organizations’ announcements and press releases.
DavidsonNews.net keeps a staff of three full-time individuals, including Boraks, who serves as publisher and executive editor, Christina Rogers, a reporter, and Lyndsay Kibiloski, the chief operating officer, who does much of the business strategizing with Boraks. The site also employs four part-time reporters that cover issues from school news to the activities of the police and fire departments. DavidsonNews occasionally accepts unpaid reader submissions of articles, photos, or opinion pieces.
On the business side, DavidsonNews employs a marketing intern, a bookkeeper, two hired consultants, and four advertising managers paid on commission. Boraks firmly believes that he could not have started the site as a “one-man operation,” despite his many years of journalism experience and skills in web design. “You have to be very clear what you’re good at and what you’re not good at and find people to help you in those areas where you need help,” he says. Boraks gives plenty of credit to Kibiloski for helping attract advertisers to the site and handling the reader relations and marketing strategy.
DavidsonNews.net currently attracts 20,000 monthly unique visitors. One third of those visitors visit the site multiple times a week. DavidsonNews.net receives 75 percent of its revenues from paid advertisements from local businesses and 25 percent from voluntary “subscription” payments (donations, more or less) from its most loyal readers. Boraks sees the high demand and niche market for his hyperlocal site and believes that the hyperlocal news trend will continue to expand nationwide. Putting his money where his mouth is, Boraks launched a news site devoted to the nearby town of Cornelius, N.C. in March of 2011. He feels that more sites are possible, but is “playing it conservative.” Instead of spreading his company too thin and opening outlets in multiple towns, he is starting sites one town at a time to make sure they will last.
In 2000, Boraks worked at a Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. online startup called LocalBusiness.com, which covered startups, venture capital, and small businesses in twenty-five cities around the country, as a senior correspondent covering the financial services industry. When the site scaled too quickly, it exhausted its initial venture capital and had to close up shop. This is the last thing Boraks wants to happen to his company. He’s growing the sites cautiously, with a calculated business plan and an eye on the future.