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Inside A Content
I want to dig into what you are doing at Speakeasy
but first, can you give us a thumbnail of your career
path to date?
I've always been in some form of local media. I
started my career at D Magazine in Dallas during
its 1990's re-launch, holding just about every job
including production, editorial, circulation, sales and even-
tually GM. I also served as publisher of Texas Lawyer with
American Lawyer media. In 2004, I started Pegasus News as
a digital-only news site. Very database-y and "hyperlocal."
After being sold twice, I left and did a stint as a consultant
for companies like Gazette, Examiner and CBS Local. In
2012, my friend, Owen Hannay (Slingshot), recruited me
to join in a content marketing agency joint venture with
The Dallas Morning News (DMN) — That's what became
Speakeasy launched two years ago and found suc-
cess fairly quickly with a positive cash flow in 15
months and projected 2014 billings of $3 million.
Tell us about your early endeavors and how you got the
wheels spinning. What was your early mission and how
true to these roots are you today?
We had tremendous advantages from the start : The
two JV partners gave us instant, unearned cred-
ibility with potential clients, and with them pulling
the weight on bizdev (DMN) and Slingshot providing our
agency backend services, we were able to bring together
a dreamteam of marketers to do mostly one thing: serve
clients. The first fifteen or so on the staff had either worked with me or with
someone else on the team before, which saved us a lot of rampup.
No doubt having the might of The Dallas Morning News behind you
enabled a strong startup phase — tell us about this connection and
how it plays out in your day to day operations.
The DMN has the biggest and best feet-on-the-street sales force in
the market. That’s opened up doors for us that would have taken
years as a standalone startup. We ramped from zero to seventy
clients in eighteen months, and that's because of the DMN. They paired a
sales team dedicated to us with the core print and digital reps, which was
the key to our fast start. Beyond that, they're also our fourth-largest client,
which is both a source of revenue and of credibility in the marketplace.
The rights to their archive for use in client work are also an amazing asset.
There’s a lot of talk at local media companies about the wisdom
of launching a digital marketing agency as an offshoot enterprise,
both for offensive and defensive reasons. I would imagine there’s
a fairly robust competitive landscape in a market like Dallas. How did you
break in and more importantly, stand out?
There really aren't a lot of agencies like us. There seem to be two ex-
tremes: Big social media factories churning out templated content
and tiny boutiques doing more bespoke work. Actually, our biggest
competitor seems to be "we'll do it in house." Beyond that, traditional
agencies like working with us because they're not really geared towards
creating a lot of lower-cost content and doing daily posting. PR firms have
been slower to come around, but we're starting to see the market differen-
tiate between content and social as marketing vs. PR.
Let’s talk about the primary services offered by Speakeasy...what
are you selling? Who are your customers? What is an average
monthly spend? Growth trends?
We start with a strategic roadmap based on the client's goals and
then figure out how to drive that using our three core offerings:
content, housed in an environment controlled by the client; social
media as a means to distribute that content and engage with customers;
and finally digital promotions to build audience and drive sales. For us,
content includes text, photos, videos and even databases. We also are
heavy into email marketing.
But the heart of the whole offering is content. We have our own news-
room with experienced editors and huge network of freelancers. We're
producing more than 1,000 articles a month, which provide the launching
pad for much of our social content as well.
Our average client spends around $6k a month and we have come
around to a hard floor of $3k a month. Larger clients spend as much as
$40k a month.
We're seeing a growing demand for more customized strategic work for
product launches; reputation repair and general digital problem-solving
Who sells your services? What role do the legacy media reps play
in marketing Speakeasy services? Is the newsroom from the paper
involved at all and if yes, what role so they play?
CONTINUED ON PAGE 14
There really aren't a lot of agencies like us. There
seem to be two extremes: Big social media factories
churning out templated content and tiny boutiques
doing more bespoke work. Actually, our biggest
competitor seems to be "we'll do it in house.
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