A sustainable business news model
by Chris Roush
TALKING BIZ NEWS EXCLUSIVE
The mission of the publication is to cover the news and issues of interest to businesses that are engaged in the sustainable economy. For Oregon, sustainability has become the watchword for economic development work. It’s become a differentiator for businesses and a passion for the people they employ.
In addition to the website, Sustainable Business Oregon also has a weekly two-page spread and a quarterly special publication in the Portland Business Journal.
Its goal is to provide both a hub for news and a forum for the exchange of ideas on topics of vital interest for people who care deeply about sustainable business.
Prior to joining the staff at the Portland Business Journal, Williams had a two-year stint in public relations, served as managing editor at Oregon Business magazine, technology columnist and business reporter at The News & Observer in Raleigh, N.C. and associate editor at Tech Capital magazine in Vienna, Va.
How did the idea for Sustainable Business Oregon come about?
Oregon has dedicated a lot of economic development energy around capitalizing on the state’s expertise in all things sustainable. The publisher of the Portland Business Journal, Craig Wessel, saw an opportunity to develop a vertical publication that would be dedicated to covering this lively and wide-ranging sector of the economy.
Supportive policies and some innovative businesses have made the state a sort of center for sustainable business. Oregon was seen as an early leader in industries such as green building and renewable energy, not to mention the natural resources sectors that are a part of the state’s heritage.
When did you launch, and what types of stories is the site covering?
We launched SBO in January 2010. We cast a pretty wide net, covering the intersection of sustainability and business. Sustainability touches a lot of different industries. But because we cover where the money flows, we end up writing a lot about renewable energy projects, but we also write about trends in sustainable business from innovative business models, to cleantech investing, to transportation infrastructure, to public policy. We also have a blog, Voices from Sustainable Business, where we invite guest posts from the business community to weigh in on relevant topics.
Are sustainable and environmental issues not being covered by the mainstream Oregon media from a business perspective?
They have been since January 2010! Sustainability is part of the lexicon around here, to a certain extent, the mainstream business media covers it, just not in a focused way.
How much do you work with the Portland Business Journal, which is also operated by American City Business Journals, to produce content?
SBO shares content with the Portland Business Journal and vice versa. All of the PBJ reporters contribute, at least occasionally, to SBO. The energy reporter more so than the legal reporter.
How much content does the site post each day?
As much as we can. No set goals. We cover breaking news and endeavor to be on top of our coverage area. I’d say on average 5 stories or blogs a day. Often more. Rarely less.
It’s myself and one half-time person, Mason Walker, who mostly works on the marketing side but who is an invaluable partner on the development of the site.
What has been the reader and advertiser reaction so far to the site?
Positive. We are a sponsor-supported site. For the most part, we’ve retained our advertising sponsors with very little turnover.
Is this something that ACBJ might consider rolling out into other markets?
Good question. There’s been some conversations about it — there’s certainly an opportunity there — but no plans to date. It’s an issue of how best to deploy resources.
What’s been the biggest issue in terms of getting more readers?
Exposure. And our local focus is both our strength and our weakness when it comes to growing our audience.
What area of coverage would you like to improve upon?
One thing that’s been a challenge is how to cover the more nuanced aspects of sustainability — such as social justice — from a business perspective. In addition, I always wish we had more staff, more resources. We can definitely be telling more and better stories about sustainable business.