By Andrea Adelson | LB Indy
OCinSite.com, a new regional website about coastal Orange County, started attracting its first viewers this week, the latest offering by fast-growing Laguna Beach-based Firebrand Media Inc.
Regional websites that deliver their message clearly and are well promoted can succeed in attracting visitors and siphoning advertising revenue from traditional media, according to one web marketing expert.
Even so, OCinSite comes on the scene after Orange County News Network consolidated, jettisoning its 20-person staff after just four months of operation. The network begun in January was part of the larger U.S. Local News Network, which also runs similar online regional news portals in San Diego and Riverside. The news organization had joined forces with the Los Angeles Times Media Group to create an online network devoted to providing consumers with local news and information and advertisers with cross-county reach.
Allan Simon, Firebrand’s chairman, thinks OCinSite can succeed where OC News Network faltered. “They tried OCNN in Orange County and failed primarily because they had few local sources and primarily delivered re-packaged items from outside feeds,” he said. In contrast, Simon described OCinSite as a missing web component to a media group of locally focused newspapers and magazines.
“With this diverse offering of media, we offer the public and our advertising supporters a spectrum of material from slow-read lifestyle content to up-to-the minute late-breaking news bits,” Simon said.
“We felt there was a void in the market place for a lifestyle, feature and news website dedicated to the coastal communities,” added Scott Sanchez, Firebrand’s digital media director.
Content will be refreshed daily, supplied by an editorial team drawn from existing publications as well as by recently appointed managing editor Kim Zepezauer, Sanchez said. “If we have compelling content our readers will come back for more,” he predicted.
In fact, promotion is the biggest predictor of website success, according to Stan Krome, founding owner of website developer First Crescent.com and a former UC Santa Barbara web-development instructor.
“You have to give people a reason, an incentive to come, and then deliver on your promise,” said Krome, pointing to the break-out success of edhat.com in capitalizing on reader and advertiser erosion due to a union dispute at the Santa Barbara News Press. “They gave the community a reason to go elsewhere,” Krome said.
New media filled that vacuum. Established six years ago, edhat.com in June broadened its Santa Barbara base to Ventura and San Luis Obispo sites, and has become one of the top community websites in the country, founder Peter Sklar said on his site. Even so, Edhat.com’s traffic is far below that of the OC Register newspapers 1.5 million visitors per month, according to Statsaholic.com.
Sanchez said expansion of the OCinSite infrastructure is in the works as well as relaunching the newspaper websites of Firebrand’s sister weekly newspapers, the Laguna Beach Independent and Newport Beach Independent.
OCinSite is the latest diversification of Firebrand, which also recently added a specialized real estate section to its weekly newspapers. The company also produces bi-monthly city magazines for Laguna Beach and Newport Beach, Bespoke Magazine (the in-room publication for the St. Regis Hotels & Resorts nationwide), visitors guides for Laguna Beach and Irvine, and Orange County Magazine, a publication distributed to hotels.