DCentric hits the web

By Delece Smith-Barrow

Last week I received a press release announcing the launch of DCentric, a web site about the intersection of race and class in D.C., and 11 other news sites under the NPR ARGO network. Since DCentric is an online-only news venture, this is definitely an entrepreneurial leap for radio-giant NPR.  And since our class is focused on entrepreneurship and located right outside of the District, this web site is a great topic for us to discuss.

In the last two classes, Ken described the importance of content, distribution and monetization when starting a business within journalism. I’m going to use those same categories to take a closer look at DCentric.

Content – The site is very text heavy with photos accompanying many of the posts and very few videos. It’s written as a blog manned by a single blogger who writes short, quick posts. Aggregating content from other news sites and linking out seems to be a major priority. While its tag line says the site was created to “examine the ways race and class interact in a city with a vibrant mix of cultures and neighborhoods,” many of the posts discuss neither topic. Readers can learn about everything from the number of smartphone robberies on the Metro to the latest parenting blog born in Georgetown. It will be interesting to see if more blog posts discuss race and class as the site evolves.

Distribution – Unlike most startups, DCentric has the backing of a major news organization which it can use to distribute its content. At the web site for WAMU, the local NPR station, there’s a link to DCentric, and the press release notes that NPR.org and third party sites can also use the content. DCentric also uses Twitter to share its content and drive people back to the site. I haven’t listened to NPR in a few  days, but I’m wondering if there are radio ads for it as well.

Monetization – It’s hard for online news organizations to be profitable, and I’m not sure how DCentric will approach that challenge. I’m guessing some money will come from selling ads and generating lots of page views. The site has only been live since August, so there hasn’t been a lot of time for it to get page views. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see how it does in this area.

Today Matt Thompson of the NPR ARGO Project will come to Georgetown to discuss DCentric and other details behind ARGO. Hopefully he’ll elaborate more on all three of these topics, and let us know what to do if we’re interested in launching our own news web site.

About Delece

Hi. I'm a reporter who's passionate about education, tech, race and culture, plus a dozen other things.
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3 Responses to DCentric hits the web

  1. Steve Buttry says:

    Interesting analysis, Delece. Of course, NPR takes a different approach to monetization than a business would take, because of its support from tax dollars and membership drives. The answer might be whether DCentric has its own support source (perhaps a grant) or whether it’s just part of the general NPR budget, supported by memberships and federal money. Would be a good question to ask.

  2. Delece says:

    Good point, Steve. During the “Anatomy of a News Startup” event, Matt Thompson mentioned funding from a grant that supports the ARGO project. Once the grant runs out, Matt said the project’s sustainability will depend somewhat on building a large, engaged audience and getting new members (I’m guessing he means NPR members).

  3. doneliya says:

    I checked the website and I liked its content. The website is busy and utilizes a lot of links to other sites, which I think is a great advantage. The site has interesting sections that provide useful information to D.C. residents (e.g. Culture, Around the City). Also, the website is easy to navigate.

    About distribution — I think that as a new site, DCentric should utilize all free resources and social media tools (not only Twitter) to advertise and share its content.

    In general, I think that any business (including online news organizations) could achieve profitability by spotting an opportunity that would fulfill a specific need; creating original and easy to use content; and using efficient marketing strategy to distribute its content. I believe DCentric is on the right track.

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