BostInno was the brainchild of two young entrepreneuers hoping to break into the Boston startup scene. After graduating from Hamilton University in upstate New York in 2007, BostInno co-founders Chase Garbarino and Kevin McCarthy moved to Boston with little money and big ideas. They started a digital media company in college together, and were interested in working in the field further.
In late 2010, the two created a technology, Pinyadda, that gathered the news and organized it by topic through a simple system of tagging. The initial plan was to use this technology to create a “consumer news aggregation platform,” said Garbarino. The platform didn’t gain the popularity the two had hoped, which Garbarino credited to people needing “less information, not necessarily more.”
The work put into the technology was far from fruitless, as it allowed the creators access to well-organized, real-time news. The challenge was to gain traffic. At the time, BostInnowas a WordPress-hosted blog Garbarino and McCarthy used to write on Boston’s growing innovation and tech scene.
“We ended up taking the technology that we had built, using it for being data driven, in terms of how we covered things…so that would drive traffic for us, seeing what was trending on news, getting out very early on with news coming in,” said Garbarino.
With this technology, Garbarino and McCarthy were able to see that city news was a topic BostInno could capitalize on, so the team shifted their focus to the Boston news scene. Their plan of action was to go as deep as possible into the trending news topics, and because of their shared interest in technology and media, BostInno’s first vertical became Boston’s growing tech and innovation scene. From there, traffic grew, investors showed interest and enough money came in that the team was able to branch out and grow.
“[We] expanded our team from a handful of people to a few handfuls of people and we expanded editorial, started to bring on marketing and sales, brought more developers to continue to build out the platform,” said Garbarino. Beginning in 2011, the team began rolling out new content by expanding coverage to interests outside of just local tech and innovation.
“We have a writer for each vertical, and that’s something we’re constantly expanding and working on and finding out where we have an audience,” said Melissa Ablett, marketing coordinator at BostInno. The editorial team holds daily meetings to go over what content will be put out on the website, organizing the deadlines incrementally to have a continuous stream of new content being pushed out.
Currently, the team covers three umbrella interests: technology, city news and education.
With articles covering topics such as the upcoming unveiling of Harpoon Brewery’s Boston location, Babson’s new wind power initiatives and weekly rollouts of “BostInno Approved” events, the website is reaching out to a variety of audiences.
BostInno’s heaviest readership is among the 25- to 34-year-old demographic. But the fastest-growing demographic for the site comprises people between 34 and 50.
Early on, Garbarino and McCarthy sought to establish an edgy voice in covering local business. As the company grew, they wanted to maintain the early company standards of edge and depth, while still expanding their audience.
“The way that we think of the whole editorial coverage is work, play, buzz – which is a template for pretty much every city in the country,” said Garbarino. This coverage has proven to be successful, as BostInno is no longer the only city with a website of this kind. BostInno.com is now in a league of three, with Washington D.C., getting coverage on InTheCapital and New York City’s InTheEmpire. Altogether, the three websites make up Streetwise Media.
The cities thrive from the unique and fresh voices present on the Streetwise Media teams, but also the community platforms available on all the websites.
“We really focus on the fact that, in this day and age, every single person can produce content,” said Ablett. The BostInno team decided to embrace the community of writers putting out content
The platform, called Channels, is where organizations can publish directly on the BostInno platform. BostInno opens the platform to anyone, even likely competitors. Channels is a platform made up primarily of companies focused on content marketing and strong blogging reputations. Companies create a channel they use to publish posts and create a branding for their organization.
For companies like MassChallenge, a Massachussetts initiative to funding local startups, the Channels platform has become a perfect place to spread news of featured startups. BostInno shares the 14th floor of their corporate building with many of the small startups featured on MassChallenges’ posts. It’s been beneficial all around, as the site and startups keep each other in tune to local shifts in business.
Individual users wanting to publish outside of the organization-based Channels have the option to submit a guest post. The posts are screened by the BostInno team, but according to co-founder Kevin McCarthy, they allow all posts except ones that reflect “outright hate for no reason or no benefit.” McCarthy, who work primarily on the technical side of the website, says this is essentially a “non-issue”, and thinks they’ve had less than a handful of posts deleted.
Streetwise Media has expanded across multiple social media platforms. It has 5,115 fans on Facebook and 3,120 followers on Twitter. They’ve tapped into visual media with a “Party Rocking at the #InsiderAwards” Storify story and have a regularly updated Flickr account.
The website is still growing, reaching new readership everyday. However, the goals of the team remains strong. “Our biggest focus will always be going as deep as possible in the news, [no matter what] we’re coming,” said McCarthy. Even as they roll out new verticals, this dedication to in-depth coverage has proved to be successful. BostInno thrives from its writing style and coverage, and also its community platform. Allowing other businesses to publish on BostInno’s platform has proven to be a great success for BostInno, and the content pushed out by these companies is well-read by the BostInno audience.