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Introducing GrowthSpur

July 30, 2009

GrowthSpur got its start in a conversation among a group of new-media thinkers, including Jeff Jarvis and Mark Potts, about creating new business  models to support local news and information. With the local media landscape changing rapidly all around us, we wanted to find ways to allow new types of local media to be created, flourish and find their way to profitability.

To that end, GrowthSpur will provide training, tools, services and networks that will allow local sites to grow and become successful businesses. More than 2,000 local sites and blogs have been started over the past few years, mostly as labors of love, and there are many more to come as newspapers founder and journalists and community leaders look to new ways to provide news, information and forums to their neighbors.

But starting a successful local site is very hard. And many of these startups don’t give enough thought to revenue and business models needed to sustain a site or blog after the first blush of excitement or funding wears off.

That’s where GrowthSpur comes in. The company will provide a suite of tools and services that will take a lot of the guesswork out of starting or running local sites and turn them into successful, sustainable businesses, including:

  • Training local sites how to set up multiple revenue sources, including best practices in ad sales
  • Providing tools that local sites can use to manage and enhance their businesses, from ad-serving to analytics to mobile delivery
  • Organizing networks to bring local sites together to sell ads amongst themselves
  • Enabling “citizen ad sales” efforts that can provide additional sources of ad revenue to local sites by letting local entrepreneurs get into the ad-selling business

There’s no upfront cost to local sites for a GrowthSpur partnership. Our revenue model is a service fee on the advertising revenue we help you with. In other words, we make money if you make money. And we believe, based on our research and experience, that a well-run, sophisticated local site can bring in more than $100,000 a year in revenue from advertising, e-commerce and other sources. GrowthSpur exists to help make that kind of success a reality for local entrepreneurs.

You can find out more about what we’re doing by clicking the links to the right and going to our site. Jon Fine of BusinessWeek has a column about us, too.

While our initial focus is on independent local sites, we’re also aware that there are more traditional local media sites that can take advantage of the networks we’re creating to provide additional soruces of ad inventory and revenue. We’re happy to work with them, too.

The GrowthSpur founding team includes executives and entrepreneurs with years of experience in developing and running local sites, selling advertising and creating innovative media strategies. Our executive team members include:

  • CEO Mark Potts, a co-founder of Washington Post Digital and pioneering hyperlocal company, who writes the Recovering Journalist blog.
  • Dave Chase, a former executive at Microsoft and its erstwhile local network, Sidewalk, who now operates his own local site, SunValleyOnline.
  • Tom Davidson, who focused on local efforts as a VP at Tribune Interactive.
  • Mel Taylor, a local advertising wiz who has shown companies like Tribune,, FoxTV and ClearChannel how to improve their local online ad sales efforts.

In addition, Jeff Jarvis, one of the smartest thinkers around about the changes in the media business, helped develop the concept and will be a senior advisor to the company. He’ll be part of a first-rate advisory board, including people with extensive experience in local sites, media and startups:

  • Geoff Dougherty is founder of, a pioneering local news site
  • Jonathan Weber is founder of, another pioneer in this field
  • Michael Rogers was the New York Times Co.’s futurist and publisher of
  • Chris Schroeder is CEO of HealthCentral and former CEO of WashingtonPost.Newsweek Interactive
  • Liddy Manson was CEO of DigitalSports and a former executive of WashingtonPost.Newsweek Interactive
  • Josh Grotstein is CEO of MotionBox and was a partner in SAS Investors, one of the backers of Backfence. He’s also been an executive at Prodigy and NBC.

One more GrowthSpur resource: We’re privileged to be working with Jarvis’ New Business Models for News program at CUNY’s Graduate School of Journalism. Their help has been invaluable in helping us understand the needs of local sites.

GrowthSpur is open for business, and we’re already working with our first group of charter partners. If you run a local site and would like our help, go to our site, read more about it and get in touch with us. We’re still in our early stages, but we’ll try to help you as much as we can.  That’s what we’re here to do. Running a local site can be a profitable business. We want to show you how.

  1. July 31, 2009 6:53 pm

    Wow. I see my former boss and mentor, TGD on this list. Also many others I respect a great deal. Mark, I knew you were up to something big and smart. I’ll be watching, discussing and surely blogging about your work.
    Angela Connor | @communitygirl
    Author, “18 Rules of Community Engagement”

  2. August 1, 2009 8:11 pm

    I was alerted to GrowthSpur by a mutual friend, Chris Hearne, and checked out your info. If you can help hyperlocal journalists become sustainable operations, that would be a terrific accomplishment. It reminds me in some respects of the ad network that American Cities Business Journals runs. When my wife and i were publisher and editor of the Austin Business Journal 1990-1994, the focus of that network was print ads. Now of course they have expanded that network to sell ads on the websites for their 42 business journals. Of course ACBJ owned most, not all, of the publications in that ad network.

    Question; The hyperlocal news operation I’m starting in Austin, Texas, will be a 501(c)(3) nonprofit operation. Not that I want to fool with advertising any longer, after 28 years as a journalist for allegedly for-profit publications (including two we owned). But what obstacles are there to hooking up to GrowthSpur for nonprofits?

  3. August 3, 2009 3:44 am

    Ken: Thanks for your comment. We think there are many different models that will prove successful to support local sites. Our focus is on ad revenue, and we’re hoping to work with non-profit sites that choose to take advertising to supplement their fundraising from donations.


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