Online content hub The Odyssey posts over 2,000 articles a week. And it's still growing

The Odyssey started as a student-run newspaper, but has tapped into the Millennial zeitgeist to rapidly expand. Kathleen Treganowan talks to managing editor Kate Waxler about what lies ahead.

Name
Kate Waxler
Title
Managing editor
Outlet
The Odyssey
Preferred contact
Kate@olympiamediagroup.com
Website
theodysseyonline.com

How does The Odyssey set itself apart from other online news publications, and how would you describe the platform’s personality?
We are trying to do something that is unique and fundamentally different from other news sites. We’re redefining the way content is created, making things a lot more hyper-local and distributing content in a unique way. Our personality is growing as our site is growing. 

With this rapid expansion, we’re going to grow to more than 450 communities by the end of the year. We are presenting a large amount of diverse observation and conversation with trends across the country. We’re creating real conversations and bringing them to the forefront.

To what do you attribute your rapid growth rate?
Local communities are hungry for high-quality content that is relevant specifically to them, which they don’t get from other news sources.

We mastered that model and made it extremely relevant to specific communities. Within a year of launching the platform, we have surpassed 10 million views a month. A few months ago we were at 8 communities and now we’re at 160. That will only grow.

Your content is written by college-aged students and recent graduates, so are you able to reach an audience outside of this age range?
Yes, 25% to 30% of our average audience is in college, but the vast majority is between 18 and 30. Our writers are writing about communities, versus just their campus.

We are talking about things like the Dad Bod, which began as a local conversation and phrase, but was then brought to a national audience. [An article on the Dad Bod that appeared on The Odyssey’s received 17,800 shares and website was widely covered, including by Good Morning America and ABC News.]

We’re producing 2,000 articles per week. That’s a lot of content.

How do you decide which communities will have a chapter on The Odyssey?
We’re trying to find different pathways to communities that we want to expand into. It’s about finding the talented individuals on the ground that can make our model work.

Many campuses and communities are contacting us. They are reading The Odyssey and are curious as to how they can start a chapter. It’s about finding people who are engaged and who have the drive that we are looking for. If we are not in your community yet, we probably will be.

Many articles on the brand’s website are considered list articles. Do you offer these to appeal to an often unfairly categorized "illiterate generation" or is it the inevitable future of news?

Some of our highest-trafficked articles are not lists. As for the "illiterate generation," we’ve seen that this generation is far from that. From the extreme depth of content we get every day, I can see that this generation is hungry and eager to be informed and engaged.

Some campuses have a print edition as well as their Web chapter. How do you decide which will have a print edition?
Because there are so many different locations, it’s important that we make size a deciding factor. We know how vital it is for the digital and printed products to work together. Print is what helps us stand out more within each community.

Do you work with school officials?
Sometimes we do. We’ve been talking to journalism departments across the country about creating different partnerships with professors. 

Our writers are not just journalists; they are students of all majors interested in lifestyle, sports, and more.

How does the website make money?
A lot of it is through advertising. People can advertise with us in the print or digital editions, or both. We have a range of local advertisers, as well as national brands such as Mountain Dew, Verizon, State Farm, and Schick Hydro.

In the past year there has been insane growth in companies that are reaching out to us, wanting to use our community to harness a Millennial audience they might not have been able to reach before.

Our revenue will grow fivefold this year. [Waxler declined to provide specific revenue figures.]

What are you working on now?
Recently, we have just rolled out a huge redesign.

* Number of articles per week has increased to nearly 5,000 and number of communities is approaching 300 as of August 31,2015.

 

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