How to grow a successful media startup in 2015

By Ebony Reed

The co-founder of Stringr talks with us about her new company’s success and the role it plays in a changing industry.

Like every entrepreneur, Lindsay Stewart recognized an underserved need in her industry.

A television producer with more than 10 years of experience, she knew that today’s multiplatform newsroom needed increasing amounts of video. That realization paved the way for launching Stringr, a marketplace for organizations to buy footage from freelance videographers.

“Video is now directly linked with the ability to not only engage an audience, but to generate revenue by extension,” Stewart said. “You see a lot of online and TV properties looking to grow again maybe without the resources they once had. They want the ability and the reach that they can get with many, many photographers and not necessarily keep them on staff.”

Stewart co-founded Stringr in November 2013 with Brian McNeill – a management consultant by trade – and immediately started approaching potential customers about their new company. They also joined media accelerator in San Francisco, receiving five months’ support in financing and mentoring from companies including The Associated Press.

Since then, Stringr has grown to serve 14 markets in the United States with a goal of reaching 50 by next year.

“Video is now directly linked with the ability to not only engage an audience, but to generate revenue by extension.”
Smiling members of the Stringr team. Co-founders Brian McNeill and Lindsay Stewart are pictured above. Photos courtesy of Lindsay Stewart.

Wherever it expands, though, it needs to make sure it has the news covered. Stewart’s staff uses AP Planner to look at upcoming events and plan for the “stories around the story.” They can then map out their requests of videographers and alerts to customers.

For example, when President Obama and Pope Francis visited New York, there were peripheral events such as protests worth filming, but not necessarily drawing the same amount of immediate media attention.

“It allows us to do our job better.”

“The AP in a way has put its resources into providing that crystal ball for services like mine so that we can then figure out what’s happening next,” Stewart said. “Based on the news judgment my staff and I have, knowing what the fixed events are in advance helps us better predict what the associated effects will be.

“It allows us to do our job better.”

Stringr’s business model relies on the company being as aware as its customers are about current events. The startup has been able to do that so far, based on growing revenue and an increasing number of client relationships, Stewart said.

Customers submit requests for footage — in addition to receiving clips and breaking news alerts from AP — which are received by a network of freelancers who proceed to capture and upload the relevant video to Stringr’s servers. Clients can then preview all video, and if they like what they see, purchase the high-definition version of particular footage.

Stringr pays its freelancers the following business day each time their video is downloaded, while keeping a portion of the transaction fee for itself as the facilitator.

“What we do is recruit the right number of videographers such that we feel any request can be fulfilled,” Stewart said. “But we don’t flood the market – we want the talented people who joined the platform to make money and then have fun with us, as well.”

Stewart says most of her customers use the service daily, but it ranges from organization to organization. The key factor, she thinks, is that they can ask for whatever they want, and Stringr delivers.

“I always say there’s nothing more exciting than running your own company, not even TV producing.”

So it’s easy to see why Stewart is excited about what lies ahead.

“I always say there’s nothing more exciting than running your own company, not even TV producing,” she said. “You get to pick the people you want next to you all the time. And I just really love working with people I’ve gotten to select. It’s a privilege.”

Ebony Reed

Ebony was the director of business development for local markets for The Associated Press in the U.S. In addition to running national sales campaigns, she develops digital sales strategies and works to identify opportunities in a rapidly changing market to build relationships and foster AP's brand.

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