Pegasus News rolling out in select cities

By Mark Briggs 

When Mike Orren started Pegasus News in 2005, he never expected his grass-roots local media site to be acquired. He was just trying to build a meaningful local information source that he would personally find useful. Crazy things happen, though, and Pegasus News has been acquired not once, but twice in its brief history.

The new owner, Archstream LLC (which is part of GAP Broadcasting), has taken the Pegasus News model and started to replicate it under a new brand of “TheDailyYou” in cities and towns where the company already owns radio stations. It is currently live in Shreveport, La., Tyler, Texas, and in Yakima and the Tri-Cities area in Washington state. The next launches will come in Bozeman and Billings, Mont.

It’s an impressive feat given Pegasus News’ humble beginnings. One of the first citywide, local news startups, Orren’s project has been through plenty of ups and downs, including a sale in 2008 to Fisher Broadcasting and then a follow-up sale in 2008 to Archstream.

Other local media startups could learn a lot from the Pegasus News model. The staff is heavy on data and technology – current staff breakdown is 1 publisher, 4 news, 3 data, 3 sales, 3 developers – which is reflected in the site’s hyperlocal content and sophisticated databases.

On the business side, the staff is experimenting with a new transactional ad model that soft-launched recently. The program is like Groupon, except that the deals offered are ongoing and participation is driven via the directory content on the site and contextually placing deals around relevant news content. This is separate from the site’s group-buy deal called Seize the Deal.)

Scaling a successful grass-roots model across new markets is, of course, the ultimate challenge in the local media sector. It will be interesting to see if the Archstream model will fare any better than Patch, Datasphere (which is Fisher’s new model), Main Street Connect, Yahoo, HelloMetro or Outside.In.