A Q&A with Kelly Gillfillan, publisher of Brentwood Home Page and sister news sites in Tennessee.
1. When did your site launch, what geography does it cover and why was it founded?
In September 2009. We originally focused on Brentwood, Tennessee, and then expanded to neighboring cities of Franklin, Nolensville and Spring Hill, Tennessee. All four sites are in one county but serve very distinct communities. We found Brentwood was underserved by decreasing coverage from a Gannett legacy paper.
2. What was your background before becoming an independent local news publisher?
I have been in marketing or sales my entire career, mostly health care, and I had been freelance writing for medical publications for seven years. My partner was a 25-year journalist.
3. How would you describe your operation and business model?
We are a staff of 12 now, growing from seven last year. Our operation is content-heavy and a tough model to sustain. Our readers are demanding when it comes to timeliness and accuracy. We strive to achieve both.
4. What do you consider your competition as a local news or information source?
We compete against a Gannett daily, a print weekly and a county online site. Mostly, though, my competition these days is Facebook and Google.
5. What makes your site unique?
We focus on local and are unique in our area for doing that. Each site has its own associate editor who covers the beat and helps guide the content. What we do is old-style journalism in a new format. I don’t know how unique that is, but it is what we do.
6. What is something you wish you had known when you were starting out or would do differently now that could perhaps serve as advice for others?
Be very careful who you hire, because it can change the culture of the business and can affect the effectiveness of the staff if the wrong person gets in the mix. Always do a thorough background check and dive deep on references.
7. What about your operation is your biggest source of pride right now?
We beat our competition daily over and over, and our sales team just keeps raising the bar and meeting high goals we set for them. Our expectations are high, and our team meets them every day. I am proud of them.
8. What do you struggle with the most?
When you are a small business, you only have so much money to spend on salaries and you want to reward your people as best you can. I wish I could give more to those zealots who are working so hard for the company.
9. What are some of your future goals for the site?
I actually would like to expand to other areas and continue to expand the model. I would like to expand some product lines to include pre-roll video and more dynamic campaigns for advertisers.
10. Why are you a member of LION Publishers?
From the moment I arrived at my first conference, it was like drinking from a fire hose. The information I gathered, the lessons I learned and the inspiration I received was incredible, and I was hooked. My LION colleagues inspire me every day.
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