Celebrating one year and three months since its launch date in January 2010, ARLnow.com has become a well respected source for news in the Metro DC Area.
From politics to food trucks, gossip and in-depth breaking news, ARLnow.com covers it all.
Mr. Brodbeck has been mentioned on main stream media sources like; The Washington Post, USA Today, NBC, TBD, and FOX5 just to name several.
With over 20,000 comments from his followers, most startups would consider this venture a success. However, Mr. Brodbeck believes success is not living off his “savings account!”
Now you’re talking!
Please tell me a bit about yourself.
My name is Scott Brodbeck. I am 27. I graduated from George Washington University in 2006. I am currently in year 2 of a part-time graduate degree program at Georgetown, where I am working on my MBA. I was born and raised in Pittsburgh. After high school I went Los Angeles to Loyola Marymount University to major in television, where I discovered that TV just wasn’t for me. I then took an internship here in D.C., and have been here ever since.
Can you tell me some details about your business?
I worked in TV since my senior year, first as a production assistant, then as a writer and content producer. I worked for 2 local television stations here, as well as a national news bureau. In January 2010, I had just left NBC; I couldn’t make it work with my school schedule. I couldn’t decide what to do next. I lived in Arlington, and tried to find out more about the area. I realized there wasn’t much information out there about the area I lived in, especially online. The area was covered sparsely in the local weekly paper, a little in the Washington Post, and occasionally on the local news. So I decided to fill the void. Within 24 to 36 hours, I decided on a name for a web site, registered it, and started working at it as a full time job. It has been growing beyond what I imagined! I really focused on growing the traffic and putting up the best content possible. Recently I have been focusing on advertising. It is not very lucrative at the moment, but it’s growing and I am having fun doing it.
How do you get the ideas for your stories?
Since I worked for about 5 years in local news, I had some good experience in sniffing out stories and developing those stories. That helps a lot. As far as on a day-to-day basis, I talk to my connections and sources. I talk to the lawmakers, business owners, and Arlington County officials. I cultivated good relationships with these people, so now they talk to me and tell me about things that are going on. I am on several mailing lists. I also have great readers, who will utilize our anonymous tip box quite often. When I first started, I had a hard time thinking about what to write about, but now I am never at a loss.
How many hours a day do you typically put in?
I probably put in about 12 hours a day, 6 days a week. I always have to spend time on school as well. I don’t sleep much or have much free time, but I do love what I am doing, so it all balances out.
Is there any advice you would give to others looking to start their own business on balancing work and their other commitments, like school or family?
I would definitely say, establish some boundaries. When I first started, I would do posts throughout the day, even on weekends. I then decided I needed to set some boundaries. I said unless something big happens on weekends, I have to take them off. I decided in general to try to end my day by 5pm. I will still make advertising sales and check emails after hours, but I try set aside time for school and sleep. I have to constantly set aside time for school.
What would you say has been your biggest sacrifice?
I have had to sacrifice my savings account and my time. I’m making enough to pay my business expenses, but not to pay myself for personal expenses. Someday I will be able to, but right now I have to use my savings to live. I don’t have much time to hang out with my friends or play video games anymore. I now see people once a month that I used to see every weekend, so time has definitely been a big one.
How would you define success?
For me, it’s when people commenting on my stories and being engaged with my content. Each day last week I had articles that received more than 100 comments apiece. That is very gratifying, especially with all the sacrifices I have had to make. Financially, I will be a success when I no longer have to live off my savings account. When that happens, I think I will pop open a cheap bottle of champagne and celebrate. I think that may come this summer.
What would you say is the best way to achieve long term success?
I think what I am eventually going to have to do is hire someone or get a partner. I know that I can’t keep this up forever. I haven’t been able to take more than a 3 day weekend. I need a vacation at some point and need to strike a balance eventually so that I can make this a long term venture.
Where do you see yourself in 10 or 20 years?
If my site is still around in 10 or 20 years, I will be thrilled. This is a rapidly developing media landscape. The site I run is often referred to as a hyper-local site, and it’s still an emerging field. I can count the number of people who run legitimately profitable sites like mine on one hand. But that’s the way the news business is going. Independent, locally run sites with one or two people in charge, rather than newspapers with hundreds of employees, is the way of the future. I have no idea where I will be in the future, but if the site still around in 20 years, it will certainly show that we are doing something right.
Are there any other businesses around that you would like to emulate?
I very much admire what Howard Owens is doing in New York at the Batavian. He is a pioneer. So is Tracy Record at West Seattle Blog. Other hyper-local sites, like in New Jersey and Sacramento. People who are like me who are pioneers who are going out there risking everything to put out a great product that their readers and advertisers love, I have a lot of admiration for them.
What are the three top skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur?
Perseverance, time management, and interpersonal skills. All businesses are in some way or another interacting with people. If you can’t deal with that, you probably won’t succeed. Also, you have to know what you are doing. If you don’t know your business, how can you make a living at it?
If you had to start this over again, is there anything you would do differently?
I would get more business structure in place earlier. Early on I had more time, I didn’t have as many readers or pressure to have content on the site at all times. I would have learned more about how to run a business. I really had to wing it at first. I also would have taken the time to get to know the local business owners. They are the ones that would pay to advertise on my site, and if I had approached them then, who knows? That is one of the big ones.
If I gave you a million dollars, what would you do differently?
I would probably hire someone really good to do the reporting side of the business, while I concentrated on the business side, like sales. I would hire someone to do content. A good person for that is not easy to find. It’s hard to find people who are good at writing and good at sniffing out stories, so I would definitely use the money to find the right person to help.
What three pieces of advice who you give to anyone looking to start their own business?
Know that it’s going to consume your life. Stick with it. Be able to see the big picture over the short term picture. Also, befriend someone who has started a business, because it will make your life easier. Having a mentor or someone whose brain you could pick would be quite advantageous.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
Nothing that I can think of off the top of my head.
Connect with Scott Brodbeck of ArlNow.com
Website – http://www.arlnow.com
Twitter – http://twitter.com/ARLnowDOTcom
In their own words – http://www.arlnow.com/about/