Our content partner, Fort Smith-based The City Wire, has begun an “aggressive and strategic” expansion phase that includes the addition of investors, staff and the development of a new web platform.
The City Wire (TCW) disclosed today that prominent Fort Smith businessmen Chester Koprovic and Bennie Westphal have invested in the future of TCW Media, and Daelene Brown and Debbie Foliart recently joined The City Wire.
As part of the expansion push, The City Wire editor and co-owner Michael Tilley has been promoted to TCW Media president, and Patricia Brown has been named the chief operations officer. Tom Kirkham continues as co-owner of TCW Media.
“Working in collaboration with the entire TCW leadership team in developing the new platform has been extremely rewarding. I can’t wait to roll out the upgraded version of The City Wire, because everyone will see we are serious about becoming a leading news source in the Fort Smith region and Northwest Arkansas,” Brown said.
The City Wire, re-launched in November 2008, is a news website that covers business, politics and culture in the Fort Smith region. The City Wire also includes news on important state and national events, issues and people. More than 617,000 website visits have been logged between Nov. 1, 2008 and Nov. 1, 2011, with more than 4.143 million pageviews.
Koprovic said his investment was based on the future of Fort Smith and the news industry.
“Newspapers in the future will be a thing of the past. People, especially the younger generations, are going to the Internet for their news. I may be an old fogey, but I still like to keep up with the new technologies,” Koprovic said. “I’m investing in The City Wire because I’m a businessman and I think it’s the right investment for the future.”
Koprovic, a member of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, is board chairman of Boyd Metals and Butler & Cook of Fort Smith. Boyd Metals is a metal service company with offices and operations in Arkansas, Missouri and Oklahoma. Butler & Cook is a metal fabrication and machine shop in Fort Smith. He also has provided significant support to the U.S. Marshals Museum, the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith, Fort Smith Regional Chamber of Commerce and other regional organizations.
Koprovic also has the distinction of being appointed to the AEDC by a Republican Governor (Mike Huckabee), and reappointed by a Democratic Governor (Mike Beebe).
“The reason I invested in it is because of the great team that has been put together and because of the great product that it is,” said Bennie Westphal. “I’m excited about having an opportunity to invest in a company like The City Wire.”
Westphal, involved in the energy and real estate business, has long been an investor in regional businesses and a promoter of Fort Smith. Bennie and the Westphal family have helped support organizations like the U.S. Marshals Museum, Second Street Live, The Fort Smith Boys & Girls Club, the UAFS and the Fort Smith Juniors Volleyball.
The two investors also stressed they will not be involved in the editorial side of The City Wire, with Westphal saying he does not see a benefit in changing what has been a successful news philosophy.
GROWTH, LEADERSHIP STRUCTURE
Patricia Brown, who joined The City Wire in November 2010, has been instrumental in helping shape the future of the company and grow revenue. The City Wire has enjoyed an almost 68% growth in revenue between November 2010 and November 2011.
“We have a growing base of advertisers who understand that we more directly help them reach their target market,” Brown said. “A big reason many of our advertisers stay with us is because we collaborate and partner with them on the best way to present their brand to our many and loyal readers. In an economy with tight budgets, results are important, and we deliver on that front.”
Tilley said more staff additions are in the works, with at least three full-time writers/editors to be hired in the coming weeks.
“The support of our investors and the loyalty of our readers and advertisers proves that our business model and our approach to quality, community journalism works,” Tilley said. “We have built and will continue to build a talented team of people with the wisdom, will and work ethic to further drive our success.”
Brown and Tilley also continue to seek investors, and are now engaged with several possible investors.
“We plan to have more announcements in the near future that provide more detail about our plans,” Tilley said.
The City Wire also announced it has hired Daelene Brown as business manager and Debbie Foliart for sales and leadership development.