Citybizlist.com tackles business news on the Web

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TALKING BIZ NEWS EXCLUSIVE

Ed Warfield believes that the future of delivering business news is on the Internet.

Warfield is the CEO and founder of Citybizlist.com, which runs 11 sites across the country, primarily in the East. The sites are Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Charlotte/Raleigh, Dallas, Houston, New York, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, South Florida, and Washington, D.C.

Each site covers local news as well as aggregating content. Leading the editorial operation are managing editors Julie Armstrong and Richard Rabicoff. Armstrong is a former Crain’s staffer, while Rabicoff is a former public relations executive and editor at localbusiness.com.

The sites now get more than 200,000 unique visitors each month, and content partners include Gigya, Newstogram, bizo.com, Quote Media, inform.com, TrackSimple, ClipSyndicate and Meebo.

Warfield has a nearly three-decade career in running business journalism operations, first in print and then on the Web. He argues that business news will increasingly migrate away from paper and to the Internet.

Warfield talked last week to Talking Biz News by e-mail about the operation. What follows is an edited transcript.

How did you decide to launch Citybizlist?

My career began in local business publishing in 1983. I owned The Daily Record in Baltimore from 1983 to 1994 and morphed it from a moribund public notice newspaper into a local business publication before selling it to Dolan Media in 1994.

I may have been a little premature at that time in my conviction that news needs to be online to survive. That year, I moved to Florida and launched my first local business news website – ReviewNet which was rebranded as The Local Business Network. Bruce Wasserstein’s private equity arm, U.S. Equity Partners, bought a controlling interest and merged the company with True Advantage.

Citybizlist has been brewing in my head since my days at the Daily Record. I just needed to get back home to Baltimore to start it. My vision was to create a Web 2.0 local business publication that redefined local business news with a virtual newsroom, strategic content, technology and distribution partnerships.

Where did your funding for Citybizlist.com come from?

My wife and I bootstrapped the company with a 2nd mortgage on our house until our first round of angel funding in October 2009. In 2009 and 2010, we raised $650,000 from friends and users of Citybizlist.com. Citybizlist is currently raising a new round for growth and expansion.

How did you pick your current markets?

Our existing markets were chosen because we wanted to establish a footprint on the East Coast before expanding.

Are there other markets that you’d like to enter? Where are they, and what are your criteria?

Sure. We’d like to be national with a presence in every major market. We have also mused about adapting our business model for global reach, but first things first.

How big is your editorial staff so far, and where did they come from?

Our talented editorial staff has worked at Crains, The Chicago Daily Law Bulletin, Tampa Tribune, Local Business Network and other business publications. Presently at 15, the team consists of six editors, four reporters and five curators/editorial assistants.

What types of business journalists are you looking for?

Citybizlist seeks journalists who are talented writers, passionate about providing distinctive accurate local business news, discovering unique stories, and getting the story out first.

What do you see as your niche in business journalism?

The appropriate metaphor would be a local Bloomberg covering companies, their people and deals and getting their stories tolds through a growing social component; we want to help our readers connect with other people and organizations that are passionate about their professional lives as they are. It’s an area where readers are ahead of most business journalists.

What news and information are you providing that others in business journalism aren’t?

We’re focused on providing local public and private business news not being covered by the others.

Who do you see as your biggest competitors?

We feel that we’re competing with all business media to engage C-level executives and business professionals.

Why are the daily newspapers in these markets so vulnerable these days?

The business sections of the daily newspapers have been lackluster for some time now. The business journals took over the local business news franchise decades ago. Unlike the business journals, which still have their weekly print publication, we have a 24-hour, five-day, virtual news operation based on partnerships with no legacy print deadlines.

What did you learn in Baltimore and Tampa Bay that you’re applying now?

It’s better to be early then never to show up. The localization of the Web is here. I’ll admit I was a little early in 1994, but it’s definitely here now.

Anything else?

Sure. Send us some talented journalists.