Advertising with @TechnicallyPHL and what other Web startups can learn


Earlier this week, I launched the first profit-end of a business in my entire life — assuming the tax-status gray area of cutting hair and writing term papers for friends doesn’t count.

Technically Philly, a news site covering technology and innovation in Philadelphia that I launched with two friends, began soliciting advertising, the first in a series of monetization strategies — because advertising can’t be king anymore.

In the first four months, we’ve been introducing members of this region’s Web 2.0  and co-working communities, but we have so much ground yet to cover. We’re only now making friends with the bubbling venture capital scene in Philadelphia, and the innovation and technology that is being employed in this region’s rich life sciences and biotech sectors would blow you away. We want to report appropriately and effectively with wisdom and justice, chronicling the heights and depths and direction of this scene and its creative economies.

And that’s just it, for a Web startup, you have to be patient. By most accounts, four months is likely early to launch monetization, but, simply put, the fiscal standing of my two co-founders and I makes it necessary to get the profit structure squared away.

See our media kit for Technically Philly — designed by Brian James Kirk.

There are a host of issues we’re eager to take on, if only just to learn about the real practicalities of entrepreneurial journalism.

Like all young journalists, we’re rabid about transparency and ethics, so we’ll be letting our readers know of any boundaries we think we ever near.

We don’t to violate a trust. We think we’re becoming an increasingly valued brand in the community of technology users and innovators in the region, and, of course, we hope to only bolster that standing. So, though advertising isn’t our favored long-term profit-making venture and while many conversations on the form are being had, we do think partnering our brand with relevant products, businesses and ideas will have great value for our readers and sponsors.

So our advertising demographic is valuable, but it can’t be and isn’t our focus. We wanted to ask for permission from our readers, effectively. We want those readers to tell us if we’re violating what they feel is appropriate.

My fellow founders and I will be selling our own ads for the time-being, though we been in talks to some about commission-based ad sales for us. Still, we’ve already gotten some response from readers who are excited to see us making a move to make Technically Philly sustainable.

I like to think that they see we aren’t a blog spouting conjecture or a lax Web site of amateurs. We are the only originally-reported, independent and professional news source covering technology and innovation devoted to Philadelphia, the country’s fourth largest media market and one of the oldest, proudest and most influential cities in the union. We take what we do and what we hope to do here very seriously. We hold ourselves to the most professional standards of ethics and transparency, but we are the children of modest fathers.

So, if you want unparalleled access to a remarkable demographic, come see us. This is a demographic that no one else on the planet reaches: tech professionals and innovators in the broad Philadelphia region. If you have an event, a product, business, organization, meeting, conference, group or anything else you want people like that to know, we hope you’ll contact us, about advertising or other partnership opportunities.

Find that readership, respect it and cater to it, but you have to understand it as a demographic, whether for advertising, events or any other monetization.

We’d like to stick around for a while. We started making that happen Tuesday by beginning to pursue display advertisers, with respect for our readers. Soon, we’ll rollout other strategies to sustain our coverage, from merchandising to membership opportunities and a host of ideas in between.

It has to be done with respect to those readers, done carefully and slowly.

Advertising is some kind of twisted triangle, a salty, small-town reporter once told me: the readers, the sponsors and you. Advertising on community news is like looking at that triangle from the side: just two points remain as the readers and sponsors become one. And suddenly, the whole thing seems dirtier — equally parts able to stand straight and narrow or tip over altogether.

We’ll have to see how this goes. I’ll be sure to post on what I learn.

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