Brooklyn’s leading online publication helping dwellers and devotees learn about the largest growing borough in New York City has received a fresh look. Along with its facelift, Brownstoner introduced some new tools to develop the site from a former blog toward a media brand.
“When you think about Brooklyn, we want you thinking about Brownstoner. People tend to be very Manhattan-focused. The whole mission of Brownstoner is to reflect the change and the focus from Manhattan to Brooklyn,” said Kael Goodman, Brownstoner’s publisher. “It’s a lot larger than Manhattan, and for many people is the preferred place to live.”
When Browstoner started 11 years ago, it developed a quick following. According to Goodman, it didn’t take long for the site to develop a loyal and large audience, something Brownstoner has maintained throughout its massive growth and recent sale to content marketing agency, Blankslate.
And, as Goodman points out, Brooklyn is the fourth largest city in the U.S., so focusing on a substantial market makes for a sizeable brand.
Brownstoner’s dedication to Brooklyn isn’t off base, given its popularity and massive growth over recent years. Brooklyn’s population grew by 19,420 between 2013 and 2014 — the highest portion of growth in NYC. In comparison, Manhattan’s contribution was only 4,263 new residents.
Concierge services to connect users with local pros
Scaling the Brooklyn brand and keeping a local focus is of maximum priority to Brownstoner — which is why the team has turned their business directory into a services marketplace, complete with live agents to help users renovate and repair.
Brownstoner’s concierge service connects real agents to the service providers. It has already received inquiries, one of which included a flooded apartment requiring agent and architect services. The local focus and interconnectivity sets it a part from a web-based portal like Angie’s List, which doesn’t speak with home improvement professionals directly.
Conversation made better
Real time discussions have been incorporated to encourage community interaction on Brownstoner. Rather than allow the discussion to get fragmented via social media sharing, Brownstoner wants people conversing directly on their page — so when conversations in the community forum attract a broader audience, the staff moves discussions to the homepage to attract more voices and opinions.
“The commenting section and the forum are part of the same system. What we’ve turned Brownstoner into is a discussion platform by combining commenting with the forum,” Goodman said. “And people have been very engaged with the site.”
Clean visuals, faster load times
Now, Brownstoner features content that’s easier to find, with new browsing tools organized by topic and geographic region.
“On the visual side, our goal was to create a site that was, visually, very simple, and put the content in front. In the world of web design, it’s called content-forward,” Goodman said. “The content speaks for itself and the design isn’t getting in the way.”
By keeping designs minimal, the site should load quickly on all devices — something Brownstoner realizes is all too important in today’s world of reading on the go. Mobile and tablet load times aren’t delayed because of distracting graphics, with content coming first.[Tweet “”The goal here is to serve one community, and serve it well.”
“We changed everything, and we changed nothing. The pieces that make up Brownstoner, nothing has changed. However, the way in which we are delivering them, everything’s changed,” he said. “We’re perfecting what we have.”
So what’s next for Brownstoner? Once the team learns more about the concierge service, they plan to develop a real estate agent program.
But, according to Goodman, one thing is for certain: Brownstoner has no plans to scale beyond Brooklyn.
“In today’s world, everyone’s always trying to scale everything to national. That’s not what we’re trying to do here,” he said. “The goal here is to serve one community, and serve it well.”