A Q&A with LION member Bob Conrad, publisher of This is Reno in Nevada.
1. When did your site launch, what geography does it cover and why was it founded?
This is Reno started as a volunteer effort among media and PR professionals in the Reno area in 2009. We started it to provide an outlet for news that wasn't getting covered elsewhere in the wake of dramatic cuts to local, corporate-owned newsrooms.
2. What was your background before becoming an independent local news publisher?
I've dabbled in journalism since I was a journalism major in college in the early- to mid-'90s. I unwittingly entered the PR/marketing game around 2000 and was always intrigued (and perplexed) by certain aspects of the news business seeing it from that side. When This is Reno launched, it gave me an opportunity to see communications from the PR and news perspectives. In that sense, I've been a journalist for some time, but working in various capacities of the field.
3. How would you describe your operation and business model?
Consulting and teaching continue to be my regular income sources, and we are moving toward getting This is Reno even more sustainable. I'm able to pay rent, our freelancers, and myself a bit, which I am very happy about. I hope to grow it into a more full-time operation. We rely on ads, sponsored content and events promotions, as well as our technical and creative services particularly for small businesses.
4. What do you consider your competition as a local news or information source?
I suppose other news outlets and other websites would be considered competitors, but at the end of the day, the feedback we get is that we're offering something different enough that I view us more as a complementing player in the local market.
5. What makes your site unique?
On the news front, we are not limited by deadlines and outside, corporate pressures. In theory, I could push the site back to a volunteer operation and get a real job. Also, we are mostly longtime Reno citizens — whereas, many news outlets frequently hire from out of market — so we are invested in the community. I think that brings an authentic voice to our news coverage.
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?
We deliberately did not want to monetize the site from the beginning, because of potential conflicts with our state jobs, which may have been seen as a conflict of interest. In hindsight, I could've quit my state job sooner to run with this full-time. (I became self-employed full-time two years ago.)
7. What about your operation is your biggest source of pride right now?
We frequently break stories that other media can't or won't cover — every week, it seems. We're fairly diligent in covering local government, often when other media are absent. Other media have openly admitted to taking story ideas from our site.
8. What do you struggle with the most?
9. What are some of your future goals for the site?
Continue to expand our social channels and website impact. We haven't stopped growing, and people seem to recognize it. It's possible other ventures are on the horizon, such as a re-lauch of our podcast and possible new brands will develop. But one thing at a time!
10. Why are you a member of LION Publishers?
I was part of the CUNY Beat Business training in 2015, and it came highly recommended. I couldn't join then, but am happily a member now. I really enjoyed the conference in 2016 and look forward again to 2017.