Local Journalism made in Washington, D.C. brought to You by TBD


It’s going to be a big week for Jim Brady and his new gig, TBD, as the company gearing up to make their big launch in an already super crowded media space this week. The company has been in development for almost nine months, is being financed by Allbritton Communications, which also owns the online political site Politico.

Like Journal RegisterTBD is a hyper-local and community-oriented News site built from network of local bloggers to create an online journalism. TBD’s content will be from their own staff and a network of 150 bloggers covering the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. The blog’s content will appear alongside news and opinion postings from TBD staff .

The Journal Register’s content will be from bloggers of Philadelphia, Michigan, Connecticut and New Jersey. They have been aggressively launching new-media related ventures including a community journalism lab aimed at training local bloggers.

From the limited information I have learned about both companies, it seems to me both company’s models are about empowering the many independent bloggers who are providing coverage of the communities the traditional papers serve. I think That’s how they will supplement their own staff coverage.

TBD has already established a strategic partnership with GrowthSpur who will be working with the bloggers to help them sell advertising on their blogs, both by training them in ad sales and by aggregating them into an ad network that can carry advertising across all of the blogs in the group.

I did a little bit research on the local journalism-based blog networks business model and found out the model has already been tried in the past, but not many could make a solid business model out of it. Backfence.com was one of them, but it looks like they shut down in 2007.  Not quite sure why.

I assume the TBD team is fully aware of Backfence failure, more importantly has incorporated some lesson learned  from these previous attempts.

The other company TBD should watch out for is AOL’s baby, Patch.com, which I have been covering since AOLers became Googlers earlier this year. Patch has already been kicking ass and taking names by expanding into a number of U.S. markets with $50 million in funding from AOL.

Finally, let’s not forget about the 800 pound guerrillas like Brady’s previous company,  The Washington Post, which has also built a large network of bloggers to achieve the same goal. Not quite sure how they have been doing though.

Jim Brady

Whether such new business model makes it big, beats me. I am not an expert on this. As a Washingtonian, let’s hope at least TBD makes a sustainable new business in our region. Not to mention Jim has been really helpful to me ever since I met the dude :-).

Washington,D.C. region is in desperate need for another great business success story . Last time we had one of those, was in 1998 when the startup networking company, Yurie Systems acquired by Lucent for $1.23 B with the revenue of only $53 m – over 23x. I happened to be one of the early employees with decent options (employee number 8 🙂 ).

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About Elias Shams
I have been a serial entrepreneur in telecom and social media space for past 12 years or so. I hold a M.S. degree in Telecommunication Engineering from the George Washington University and a B.S. degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Maryland. I’ve lived and worked in many countries and cities including London England, Tehran Iran, Bonn Germany, Paris France, Alicante Spain, Delhi India, and my favorite of all Washington, DC of great US of A. Two of the greatest Washington, DC based companies I worked for and very proud of are Yurie Systems which was sold to Lucent in 1998 for $1.23 B and telezoo.com that I founded in 1999. I am currently the founder and awesomizer @ awesomize.me

13 Responses to Local Journalism made in Washington, D.C. brought to You by TBD

  1. Chris says:

    BTW, the guy running GrowthSpur used to be the founder of Backfence.com.

  2. Terry P says:

    The model didn’t work for Backfence, but it has worked for Guardian.co.uk, the wpost, and many other major media. Anyone know why and how?

  3. Jim Golden says:

    When this week?

  4. Jeff says:

    Why would AOL put in $50 M on a company with such a crowded space? This explains why AOL is going down. I wonder how much Allbritton has put in to TBD.

  5. Crazy Reza says:

    So let me see if I got this right. Allbritton owns both Politico and TBD. What happens if TBD staff or their network of bloggers cover the same story as Politico? Wouldn’t that be conflict of interest?

    • Elias Shams says:

      Good Question Crazy Reza! Honestly, not sure how that’s going to work when both Politico and TBD going after the same story. Based on what I know of the two companies, Politico is all about Politics (from the company name). I doubt TBD folks touch politics.

      • Cindy says:

        Elias, I found one of your old videos on Youtube. I guess it’s you. Congrats on Yurie thing:
        http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=telezoo.com&aq=f

        How come you didn’t disclose that number with the CNN guy in the clip? I assume it was either too low or too high. Given you were employee number 8, I think you did good.

        What happened to Telezoo if you don’t mind asking?

        Great Piece on TBD. And, yes, we need another success in DC area. Let’s hope TBD will be the next one.

        Why did Jim Brady left the Post?

    • Maxnewsroom says:

      Politico focuses mainly on two “beats”: Capitol Hill and the White House. And “capital P” Politics. TBD is supposed to be mainly local, and like Patch, “hyper-local”. Think communities, and mainly, the suburbs, although the newly gentrified neighborhoods of D.C. (H Street’s “Atlas district” in NE, as well as U Street in NW, and NOMA, North of Mass. Ave.), are also possibilities.

      Also: TBD is supposed to tap into the resources of two other co-owned media outlets: WJLA-TV (ABC7), and their cable news outlet, News Channel 8. Both the websites for these television-focused organizations are being merged with the TBD websites, so those outfits, which are generally local to begin with, will also feed content into TBD.

      • kamran Abdi says:

        So, would you say the combination of TBD and Politico will be a head to head competition with The Washington Post? I assume they become partners at the later stage.

      • kamran Abdi says:

        I mean TBD and Politico partnership

  6. GrowthSpur says:

    Mark Potts here, cofounder of Backfence and GrowthSpur. There’s really no comparison between what TBD is doing and what Backfence did. The models are entirely different—Backfence was an effort to create local sites from scratch, not a blog network. In that way, it’s more analogous to Patch, which is likely to face some of the same challenges we did.

    Backfence failed, among other reasons, because creating successful local sites en masse is very difficult, and because it was too early to market and underfunded. You can read more about that here: http://recoveringjournalist.typepad.com/recovering_journalist/2007/07/backfence-lesso.html

    But things have changed in the past few years, and the organic explosion of independent local blogs in the past couple years makes it largely unnecessary to create local sites from scratch. TBD’s model is based on that (so is GrowthSpur’s, for that matter).

    I’m very excited about what TBD is doing, as I say here: http://recoveringjournalist.typepad.com/recovering_journalist/2010/08/why-tbd-is-important.html

  7. GrowthSpur says:

    Ionut: Backfence created sites–similar to blogs–in several towns in the DC area. Anybody could contribute to those sites. There are some details in the post I referenced. Backfence shut down three years ago, so the sites are long gone. Because locals passionate about their communities are now creating sites and blogs on their own, covering their towns, that model is somewhat outmoded. But five years ago, there were very, very few local sites on the town level, so we tried to create them. Again, this is totally different than what TBD is doing, which is creating a regional site that both creates original content (Backfence did not have a reporting staff) and links widely to other hyperlocal sites.

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