BURIEN, WASHINGTON — In 2007, Scott Schaefer, an Emmy Award-winning comedy writer who worked on shows like Bill Nye the Science Guy and The Arsenio Hall Show, decided to create some comedy websites from his home in King County, Washington. He quickly discovered that getting advertising or creating revenue for comedy sites was extraordinarily difficult. “You’re competing at a national level,” says Schaefer. “Nothing was sticking.” He decided to start another hobby on the side, a blog that would cover local events and news in his area. Eventually he created a logo and promoted the site in his area. Before he knew it, the blog had taken off, and businesses were calling to see if Schaefer accepted advertising.
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Today, the comedy websites are gone, but SouthKingMedia.com, Schaefer’s online media company, is a full-time occupation. The company is a network of six local blogs covering six towns in the southern part of King County: The B-Town (Burien) Blog, Waterland Blog (Des Moines), White Center Blog, Normandy Park Blog, Tukwila Blog, and SeaTac Blog. In 2010, The B-Town Blog was named “Best Hyperlocal Website” in the Society of Professional Journalists’s Northwest Excellence in Journalism Contest–an impressive win in the robust Seattle-area online media market.
South King Media aims to be the main news source for residents of the six towns, providing event calendars, city council coverage, and breaking news with multiple updates every day. “It’s what I would call small town politics, community related news,” says Schaefer. The sites have also become a “marketing-arm” for local non-profits, who can advertise fundraisers and events for free. “It’s really helped stimulate the community,” Schaefer says. “We see ourselves as more than a news source. We’re really a partner in the city and community.”
In February, South King Media is venturing beyond blogs and into new online territory with SoKing Internet Radio. The station launched on February 15 and aims to be what Schaefer calls the first “hyperlocal radio station” in the northwest by featuring only local bands and musicians from South King County. Eventually, Schaefer says he hopes to have an individual internet radio station for each of South King Media’s blogs that will live-stream events and broadcast local news and original programming in addition to music.
The idea for the station came when Schaefer attended a local music festival and realized he’d never heard the bands playing because they couldn’t be found on mainstream radio. It took Schaefer two years to launch the station (under SoKing Internet Radio, LLC) and he says that the excitement among residents is high. “This is a new outlet to help local bands,” says Schaefer. “It’s a very logical extension of what we do as a media company. We do local news and events and features, and we feature musicians…I really like to help media people that I think are cool.”
The initial start-up money for the station came from South King Media, and Schaefer’s plan is that the station will be supported financially by advertising revenue from local businesses. Schaefer will soon launch a Kickstarter campaign to raise money to build a radio studio.
South King Media was initially supported by small investments for software and office space by Schaefer and family members. Today, it generates revenue from more than fifty local advertisers who benefit from high traffic rates to the network of sites. The number of unique visitors per day for the six blogs is about 95,000, according to Schaefer. The region being served has a population of approximately 142,000. (Traffic figures could not be independently verified by CJR.) Although there are several regional newspapers including The Highline Times, Schaefer says he doesn’t see them as competition online because they don’t post as frequently as South King Media’s blogs do.
Many of the network’s senior freelancers were former newspaper reporters. Currently, South King Media pays between $35 to $100 for stories from freelancers. Schaefer is the only full-time employee, and splits his time between editorial and business. He employs several multi-talented freelancers, including a web developer/photographer and several writers/ salespeople. The freelancers work across all sites in the network. SoKing Internet Radio is currently seeking on-air hosts and sales representatives. Schaefer believes that Internet radio is a smart investment. “Terrestrial radio is going the way of newspapers and dinosaurs,” he says.
South King Media Data
Name: South King Media
City: Covers the southern King County towns of Burien, Des Moines, Normandy Park, SeaTac, Tukwila, and White Center.