Secrets of the City, which has waxed and waned since its pioneering MnSpeak days, is beefing up, according to co-publisher Matt Bartel.
The site, which became the go-to blabfest under Rex Sorgatz, was eventually bought by the Bartel family, who eventually folded in their Rake magazine content, renamed the site, then ejected much of the original content after The Rake folded. Now, SOTC hopes to become a bit of a blogger mall, if I’m boiling this all down accurately. The site, which still features culture picks, will also add back the “7 Quick Questions” feature Sorgatz began.
Overseeing it all will be Cristina Cordova, an ex-Rake and SOTC editor who replaces Daily Glean‘s own Max Sparber. Bartel says in addition to posting and discussion-monitoring duties, Cordova will wrangle “guest posters” on topics such as sports and music.
This caught me by surprise, since SOTC stopped paying top-notch sportsbloggers such as Britt Robson this spring. (Robson, by the way, currently covers the Timberwolves for Canis Hoopus.) Bartel says the new guests won’t be paid; the lure is that their participation will bring more attention to their site, and perhaps some advertiser trade.
“We hope there are more contributors than the editor and me,” he says.
As I’ve written before, SOTC lost some of its cultural relevance when discussion tools like Twitter moved to the fore. Bartel says the site remains profitable — “though it’s not a big cash cow” — racking up 60,000 unique visitors and about 200,000 page views in the past 30 days. Traffic spiked after an early October redesign, he adds.
“Traffic, if you compared it to what it was when RakeMag and MnSpeak were separate, is down slightly, but not as much as you’d expect, having lost all of the magazine content,” Bartel says. “Twitter definitely has drawn people away from the discussion exclusively at MnSpeak, as has Facebook and you guys [MinnPost]. But I still think there’s value in a place where people knowledgeable about the local Internet-media scene come, and picking out most interesting links. Not everyone wants to use Google Reader or a giant blogroll.”
Fans want to know if Sparber jumped or was pushed, and after talking to him and Bartel, I’ll go with nudged. Sparber says Wednesday’s announcement was “a little bit unexpected.”
Says Bartel, “It wasn’t so much that Max was replaced by Cristina as it was that we changed the job description of the editor and decided that Cristina was a better fit for the new job. We want it to be less about submitting a bunch of posts, which Max did well, and more about encouraging outside contributors to submit more diverse content.”
For his part, Sparber says he was apprised of the direction switch well in advance, if not its timing. “They’ve been wanting to change up site for quite awhile, add a lot more voices, which requires a lot of editorial oversight,” he notes. “I’m not really looking for more work, and I’m not sure they had more money for more work.”
Some of Sparber’s freed-up time will be devoted to a new band, Courtney McClean and the Dirty Curls, for whom he plays “washboard, jug, Jew’s Harp and a bass made out of a cardboard box.” If you know Max, it fits, as does his note that the band is “decidedly X-rated.”