Independents’ Day: D.C. Area Local News Sites Grow as Patch, Others Shrink

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Reports of the death of “hyperlocal” news are premature. While Patch and other corporate-backed online local news efforts are struggling, a trio of independent local news websites in the Washington, D.C. area are thriving.

ARLnow.com and BethesdaNow.com, published by Arlington, Va.-based Local News Now LLC, and PotomacLocal.com, published by Woodbridge, Va.-based Potomac Local Media LLC, have enjoyed significant traffic and revenue growth over the past year.

ARLnow.com is expanding its local coverage of Arlington with the July 1 hire of Ethan Rothstein, formerly of Leesburg Today, as a full-time general assignment reporter. Together with editor/publisher Scott Brodbeck and contributor Katie Pyzyk, Rothstein will cover government, business, transportation and spot news, as well as other developments of interest to Arlington residents.

ARLnow.com also recently completed a move into new commercial office space in the Rosslyn area of Arlington.

Founded in January 2010, ARLnow.com now reaches more than 200,000 unique visitors per month, as measured by Google Analytics. Advertising revenue is up more than 225 percent year-over-year for the first half of 2013, and the site is solidly profitable.

“We’ve become the go-to source for community news and conversation in Arlington, and we’re proud to be able to add additional breadth and depth to our local coverage with this hire,” Brodbeck said. “At the same time, we look forward to continuing to provide cost-effective marketing and advertising services to local businesses and organizations.”

BethesdaNow.com, launched in September 2012, is also enjoying significant growth. Monthly site traffic has surpassed 100,000 pageviews per month, up more than 250 percent compared to 6 months prior. Last week BethesdaNow.com editor Aaron Kraut, formerly of the Montgomery County (Md.) Gazette newspaper, agreed to a one year contract that will have him stay at the helm of the site through 2014.

PotomacLocal.com, meanwhile, has more than doubled the number of visitors to the site in one year. It finished June with 55,000 unique visitors, compared to 26,000 one year prior.

Covering Prince William and Stafford Counties, the website, founded by Woodbridge native Uriah Kiser, has established itself as a breaking news source for local government, politics, crime, and community news. In April, the site was named the best overall online-only news website in the state by the Virginia Press Association.

“Our news site is successful because all of us working on this project live and work in the communities we cover,” said Kiser. “It’s about being ‘authentically local’ — that allows us to have a solid grasp on the issues and to produce better reporting. We also have a better understanding of the needs of local business owners, who are our customer.”

Kiser has also been innovating with new business ventures, including a new 20,000 circulation annual print magazine, Potomac Local Living, which will be published later this summer as a replacement to a local guide once produced by the now-shuttered Manassas News & Messenger newspaper.

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