This is a rare editorial, but I’m breaking the rules one last time.
Seven years ago, as Pitchengine software approached 50,000 users, we were experimenting with new ways to help small businesses connect their news with their local audiences.
One concept, the Community News Stream, took shape in late 2011 as “County 10” and the rest is forever solidified in Fremont County history.
The parameters we set out still remain the cornerstones of the model: Raw news, as-it-happens, no editorial or opinions, and storytelling, not advertising. We would work to give businesses and organizations the voice they deserved in the community instead of being relegated to the boundaries of column inches or thirty seconds of shouting.
But it’s not the business model that will leave a legacy.
To me, as a fifth generation local, nothing has ever connected the whole of Fremont County the way County 10 has. And, it’s likely nothing ever will again.
When there’s smoke in the air, we turn to County 10 to see what it is. When we see lights or hear a siren, we check County 10. It’s become a part of our lives consistently, all-day long, serving as a virtual “third space” that we all turn to in times of need, fear, or celebration. It connects us all — like the orange County 10 stickers we see on so many car windows around the state.
We shared the hardest of times as a community and we’ve celebrated some great ones too. We’ve seen the best in people and sometimes, the worst, play out on social media. But, we did it together as a community — just as a family would.
All the while, in the face of declining news outlets and rising paywalls, County 10 remained consistently free for everyone. That’s something that’s easy to underestimate, but frankly, it’s an anomaly.
The model was so disruptive to traditional news that it exploded into seven more communities as we formed Pitchengine Communities and took the technology across the state. Today, every news stream we successfully sold into local hands remain staples in their respective communities: Buckrail in Jackson; Oil City in Casper; County 3 (originally called Dally); County 17 in Gillette; Shortgo in Cheyenne and Spring City in Thermopolis. Collectively, we created the largest news outlet, with the most readers, that the state has ever seen. I don’t believe the numbers we achieved will be surpassed – at least not in my lifetime.
We’ve had countless requests from people familiar with County 10 for us to take the model elsewhere to their new suburb in Austin, their burrow in Chicago, or their community in Portland. The implications of this new form of news gathering and reporting for a mobile-first generation are far reaching.
Today, County 10 leaves the Pitchengine incubator destined for new adventures and ideas from new owners and leaders who were born in the organization itself.
Will Hill, Amanda Gaudern, and Jerrad Anderson will remain as the core team that makes the 10 tick. The new owners are passionate locals with a love of community and the gumption to bet on something new and different. I’m certain you’ll learn more about the new owners in the days to come.
As for Pitchengine, we’ll be pushing new boundaries and developing “the next thing,” because that’s what we do. It’s our DNA. As a Wyoming native, I know how important it is to keep innovating — to keep building business.
I will continue to be involved in the business community through the Wyoming Business Council with my sights set on supporting the entrepreneurs that can create opportunities for the next generation of Wyoming.
Fabian Lobera will remain Pitchengine Chief Operating Officer. He continues to contribute to the state’s business community through his work on the Wyoming Workforce Services Advisory Council.
With the recent launch of Lifekey, our new wearable technology company, and existing opportunities with Pitchengine, we won’t be slowing down anytime soon.
Thanks to those employees who contributed over the years. It is my hope that at a minimum, we had an impact on your life both professionally and personally. In a place like Wyoming, the opportunity to work for an company like Pitchengine is a rare privilege that we’re thankful for everyday.
In just a few years, we’ve employed 50 people, contributed $7M in payroll (including 8 paid internships for high school, college and Job Corps students) and contributed more than $10M to the local economy. Needless to say, despite what people’s perceptions may be of our involvement in the community, we’ve contributed more than most and that’s something our team should be very proud of. It was built from scratch on creativity and the effort of many.
I want to give my sincere thanks to the community and the readers, businesses, and organizations who supported us. We’re all part of something great that I’m not sure many of us will truly realize until later down the road. Ask someone who’s moved away and they’ll tell you, “We wish we had a County 10.” So support your Community News Stream. It not only represents “news” it represents your community. A dollar spent here goes to the next generation of Fremont County and that’s priceless.
Building this brand and turning it into a business has been an amazing opportunity that we’ll never forget. For that, Fremont County will always hold a special place in my story…and my heart.
Thanks for the ride,