Scott plans to explore “video ads, stuff that is not as static.” The site currently has three full-time employees, along with about 10 paid freelance writers.
Like WeHo News, Wehoville covers issues such as historic preservation and the local arts scene.
But Scott accused his rival of failing to remain objective, saying “the WeHo News brand is not respected in West Hollywood.” Gierach said he maintains strict editorial standards.
Both publishers emphasized the differences between their sites. For example, Scott’s site has celebrity-focused content, whereas Gierach swears against it.
In its first weeks, Wehoville has published articles such as a Q&A with actress Dichen Lachman and a story about the city’s dodgeball scene.
“Quite frankly there are more people who know the names of the Kardashians than the (names of) city council members,” Scott said
But Gierach has a head start. WeHo News has some 80,000 unique monthly visitors, which dwarfs the roughly 4,300 unique visitors for Wehoville in its first week of tracking.
And WeHo News’ audience was hard-won. Gierach launched the site in 2005 after working for the now-defunct West Hollywood Tribune. WeHo News began to attract an audience, but Gierach, a trained historian, had trouble managing the site’s finances.
He’s also faced challenges from sites such as AOL’s Patch. Gierach fretted that the cash-rich corporation would steamroll his site, but he said Patch’s generic content has not posed a threat.
Gierach hoped to bolster his business this year through a merger with L.A. gay magazine Frontiers. But that fell apart, as did another deal with a private investor.
He grew despondent and began to drink heavily, he said.
“My drinking was affecting the way I could operate,” he said. “There was no revenue coming in at all – with having to pay expenses, I was broke.”
Gierach went to rehab in March, leaving the site dormant until May, when he began to post stories again. That’s also when Scott, who Gierach hoped would be a savior, backed out.
But things have started to improve, Gierach said. He hired two employees and the site is selling advertisements again. A potential financial backer has also recently come into the picture.
Gierach said he believes the ad-based model can work for hyperlocal news sites, and he hopes his site and Wehoville can coexist peacefully.
“There’s more than enough money for everyone,” he said. “It’s a matter of advertisers deciding which they want to be attached to.”
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