Curley: 'Find Your Niche, And Own It'
June 4, 2010: Rob Curley, senior editor of digital for the Greenspun Media Group and the Las Vegas Sun, wrapped up Radio Ink's Convergence 2010 on Friday afternoon with a keynote that gave the nuts-and-bolts of the unusual and successful online presences for the Sun and its sister publications. He said, "I don't know how to take you into the digital future" -- but he did show what's worked, very well, for the Sun.
First, Curley talked content, explaining the Sun's philosophy. After the recent earthquake in Chile, he said, he got a chance to ask an journalism class, "How many newspaper editors are going to pretend you don't know anything about that earthquake until you read their newspaper?" And the answer, he said, was, "Nearly all of them." The Sun's print edition, he said, instead will offer context, and explain why something happened, while the website handles the fast updates to breaking news.
Looking at the content that drives traffic, Curley gave "five P's": passion -- "The Internet is very, very good for things you're passionate about" -- practical information, like maps and movie times; and personal communication, via SMS, Facebook, and other means. Playfulness is also key, he said, noting that he'd never heard of anyone losing themselves for hours because they were so absorbed by the website of the Washington Post. (The fifth traffic-driving item? Porn.)
The Sun's website includes, among many other things, a detailed history of Las Vegas, which is, for the dates since the paper was founded in the '50s, presented through the eyes of Las Vegas Sun reporting. Its elements include a section on the city's Mafia ties. The site also has, Curley said, a huge amount of video, and that history project was built "so you would come to our site and get lost in it."
The Sun is intensely local; with no sports or arts sections in the print edition, those can be customized entirely online. The paper has reporters traveling with the UNLV teams to every game, covers the UFC in depth, and the sports section is, Curley said, "built for the hard-core fan."
And it's about to get more local: Over the past two years, Curley said, every piece of content on the site has been associated with a latitude and longitude. News can be narrowed down to a ZIP code, with context, such data on as where a given area falls in crime or home foreclosures relative to the city's other 37 ZIP codes. The "hyperlocal" pages can be easily put on a Google custom homepage; Curley said, "It used to be about getting people to your website. It's now about getting your website to the people."
A goal of the hyperlocal project, Curley said later, is bringing traditional local newspaper advertisers who have been priced out back on board, with lower-priced and tightly targeted ads.
"You don't just take your newspaper and smash it into your website," Curley said. "We try to make our content work correctly."
For radio, he advices, find a niche, and "own the crap out of it." Whether it's politics, sports, or music, he said, "Find your niche, and own that."
The Sun's sister publication alternative paper the Las Vegas Weekly has a site that is nearly as detailed as the Sun's, with databases on different topics that tie in to the paper's brand associations with fun in the evening in Vegas. Curley showed how the Weekly uses APIs to grab pictures from Flickr, Facebook, and Picasa to add to its own reporting.
"Our team plays by the rules of the Internet," Curley said. "If you're going to a gunfight, you don't bring knives."
Curley also demonstrated the Weekly's upcoming iPhone application, and the beautiful iPad app that goes with Greenspun's tourist magazine, which is distributed in nearly every hotel room in Las Vegas.