During a time when there are fewer reporters covering local governments, schools and civic engagement, people are looking to alternative channels for quality local news. Media startup Whereby.us is looking to fill in that gap by building unique local media brands in cities by providing a technology platform that focuses on email newsletters and building a toolkit for local engagement.
Their slogan, “Live like you live here,” seeks to promote inclusivity and engagement among community members. Founded by Christopher Sopher, Rebekah Monson and Bruce Pinchbeck, their goal is to connect people to their cities and help them be passionate about what’s around them.
“In every city we serve, we see locals looking for places to find connection and a sense of calm,” Sopher said. “There’s never been more content out there about the world or cities we live in, and that’s exciting, but it’s also exhausting.”
Before launching their first project in Miami, the team did extensive research on what the community needed and saw an opportunity to serve it in local journalism. Research and deciphering what communities need the most became a core foundation of their business model.
As newsletters become the dominate way publishers reach their subscribers, the Whereby.us team relies on this feature for reader retention and building steadfast communities.
“One of the worst trends in email marketing lately has been the notion that the more emails you send, the more response you get,” said Sopher. “Political campaigns use this tactic and a lot of them get the donations they need, but no one’s arguing it builds any sort of lasting goodwill or human relationship.”
They’ve learned that the more they respect their community members and help them curate and filter through their local information stream (instead of adding to it constantly), the more the community will stick around.
“For all the strengths of traditional journalism training, one of the weaknesses is that it tends to foster this idea of a wall between community and the holy work of journalists,” said Sopher. “We can see the ways in which that isn’t working anymore.”
Whereby.us currently has 32,000 subscribers to their daily newsletters, and they reach more than 2.5 million locals a month across all of their channels and cities.
“Our products are connective tissue, and when we measure our work, we look at engagement rather than volume of impressions,” Sopher said. “We’re seeing the ad market and the media market change, not disappear—and our bet is that relationships and understanding will be vital to success.”