July 17, 2007
News about Pegasus News: Domesticated but not fixed
The press release is making its way around the Interwebs as I type, but I felt like our community deserved a more personal and detailed update on goings-on here.
We've just sold Pegasus News to Fisher Communications (NASDAQ: FSCI), a publicly-traded TV and radio broadcasting company based in Seattle. While sales of companies are sometimes viewed as endings, this should be looked upon as a beginning â€” hopefully the beginning of a lot of cool things for you and for us.
First off, we're all staying on board, and Pegasus News will continue to be based right here at Walnut Hill and Central. We've always known that we needed an investor/patron/parent to make this happen. Our plan was intentionally ambitious -- mainly because we believe that is what is called for to make a business out of what we're doing. So while we've done a good job of playing at bootstrapping, we knew that could only go so far. That's why we've spent much of the past year talking to potential investors and acquirers.
And I can honestly say that Fisher is the only one out of all the ones we talked to that really "got it." (And not just because they wrote a check.) Colleen Brown, Rob Dunlop and the other members of the Fisher team came to us independently with a vision for local online news that happened to look a lot like us -- so when we met, there was an instant rapport, understanding and respect. They understood (among many other things) the funny pictures, the conversational voice and the obsession with all things local, both grand and mundane.
We've walked away from partnership opportunities over the past couple years because we didn't think the partner understood that we work best as a pirate ship, even if a well-provisioned pirate ship. (Frequent refrains that have sent us running: â€œWhy do you have to link to other sites?...You canâ€™t make fun of weather forecasters!... Can you lose the â€œDaily Showâ€ tone?... Do you really need all that data?)
So, like timid woodland creatures, we approached Fisher, found mutual trust, and have become domesticated. But that doesn't mean we're tamed or fixed (in either sense of the word).
Before I talk about how this affects you, I have to diverge a moment to talk about the Pegasus News staff . You (hopefully) know that we are a tenacious, dedicated lot. What you probably don't know is that while still working on our longer-term plans, we ran out of cash back in February. This group continued to work tirelessly to build this service from then until June without a nickel of pay. I'm a little verklempt even as I type this -- This amazing group stuck with this for nearly four months without paychecks (and a couple months prior knowing that the dry spell was impending).
These are not rich kids, or people with trust funds or cash cows at home. These are real people who struggle to make rent and keep gas in the car. And they stuck in -- even when success was not assured, and even while we took our time to make sure we were making the right partnership.
There have been many, many days in the past year that I personally have been tempted to chuck it in -- not because I didn't believe in what we were doing and not because I didn't think the business was on the right track -- but because it was so hard trying to build a battleship out of plywood. And then I'd come into the office and listen to the team trade stories of evading landlords and where to buy Ramen noodles, and I knew, for the moment, that we would make it. I can't ever thank the Pegasus team, including their families, enough. There's no quit in this group and I'm humbled that we've all hung in there. Thanks, y'all.
So, now to the important part for most of you reading this: How will this affect your Pegasus News experience?
- In the short term, it simply means that your news and data won't be produced by a bunch of exhausted, broke and distracted people. Even as we were closing the deal, I've seen improvements in our quantity and quality of work, and I expect that will continue.
- Further, it means that for the first time in some months, we're actually able to think ahead, plan and organize instead of just swinging from vine to vine taking on one hot task after another just to feed the beast.
- While we're still going to stay true to our heritage by staying lean, it means that our team will grow a bit .
- If there's been a fair criticism of Pegasus News to date, it's been that people want to see even more original staff-produced content in the mix with the aggregated content. All of the changes above will make that happen.
- We're going to take some time to work on improving site design and highlighting some of the cooler hidden features.
- We're going to focus some resources on advertising/marketing to grow the audience (both reader and advertising) for the site.
- Once we've got the business side of the site ticking along (and not before), we'll start spreading the Pegasus News model to other cities.
Here's what won't change: The personal, wry voice of the site; our compulsion to make news fun; our dedication to all things DFW; the lack of sacred cows; and our commitment to gathering and customizing all the local information we can possibly find.
I think it's fair to say that while we've been fulfilling major parts of our vision so far, what you've seen until now is the "beta" version, even if thatâ€™s not what we called it. Now that we have the support of a partner like Fisher, we'll be moving quickly towards 1.0 -- removing nothing, but ramping up everything.
It won't happen overnight, but we hope you'll notice the changes as they happen and will continue to help keep us on track by contributing to the conversation.