WRAL TechWire turns 20 this year! Filling a niche as the only technology-specific news publication in the Triangle, TechWire continues to hone its role as the first source for the rise, fall, boom and bust cycles of the local tech scene.
WRAL TechWire began as Local Tech Wire, based in Charlotte, in 2002. Capitol Broadcasting Company acquired the online publication in December 2005, through the division then known as CBC New Media Group which was led by now-company President & COO Jimmy Goodmon. The site re-launched branded as WRAL TechWire with Rick Smith as managing editor.
“I’ve been working with TechWire since several months before official launch in January 2002,” said Smith, now WRAL Digital Business & Technology Manager. “In fact, when Chris [WRAL Digital Vice President Chris Weatherly] asked me recently at a team meeting how long I had worked at CBC I said ‘B.C.’ Well maybe not that long. A ‘before Iphone’ might make more sense to people today.”
TechWire will celebrate its 20th anniversary and record growth at a private event at WRAL today, providing time to pause and recognize the hard work that has gone into the evolution of the site.
“TechWire has seen tremendous growth in audience over the last two decades,” said Corp Vice President of Special Projects John Conway, who for years ran WRAL.com, eventually stepping up to General Manager of CBC New Media and then when the division rebranded as WRAL Digital, became Vice President. “Twice in recent months the site has generated more than 1 million page views. It also been an important catalyst and component of digital revenue growth. TechWire has closely covered the expansion of the Triangle tech scene and how technology also is driving economic development in many of our state’s communities.”
The Development of a Local Tech News Leader
Smith shared more about the history of WRAL TechWire:
Allan Maurer, who died recently, introduced me to entrepreneurs in Charlotte who were interested in launching an email newsletter focusing on startups in North Carolina. They hired me to build a team of writers and launch it in early 2002 despite the dot com bubble bursting and the terrorist attacks on 9-11-2001.
I miss Allan Maurer dearly. TechWire’s success is part of a talented writer’s legacy.
We launched behind a paywall – something still rare at the time. We dropped that due to lack of success but kept the site and newsletter going despite very tough economic times.
Allan joined me as co-founder as did six free-lance writers, including former CBC editor/reporter Matt Burns.
In the 20 years since we launched, we have – that I recall, anyway, and I am getting old – not missed a business day with at least some news.
Our newsletter was among the early ones in what now is a strategic part of most news sites. In fact, coverage of our launch in The News & Observer focused on our “delivery of news to your desktop.”
Over time we expanded into a full-fledged website.
Smith had a history with Capitol Broadcasting previous to TechWire.
“I had worked with CBC before, in 1993-1995, to start Interpath, an internet service provider,” he said. “So I knew Jim Goodmon (and Jimmy) already. I saw Jim at North Hills in the spring of 2005, and he told me they were thinking about expanding content at WRAL.com. That led to a discussion with Jimmy and John Conway later that summer. By the end of the year Jimmy made the decision to acquire Local Tech Wire and to hire me as editor for a new CBC operation.”
The site quickly gained traction, breaking news on the tech sector.
“Digital audiences flocked to TechWire’s coverage of major economic development announcements from Amazon, Apple and Google,” said Conway. “They also sought out our coverage on start-ups and their funding.”
For two decades, WRAL TechWire has been breaking the latest news on tech companies and startups in the Triangle and beyond.
“TechWire is an important part of the CBC’s portfolio of digital properties given the importance of the tech sector to the Triangle’s and North Carolina’s growth and vibrance,” said Conway.
Adaptation and Open to Change
Part of the site’s longevity is due to the willingness to embrace change and try new things.
“TechWire implemented a pay wall but that was dropped four years ago as we more closely integrated with WRAL.com and WRAL TV,” Smith explained. “WRAL Digital Director of Strategic Business Development James Amato believed in the TW mission and met a fund-raising target set by John Conway in order to remove the paywall. His efforts and that of his team have paid off handsomely both in terms of readership and revenues.”
Former CBC’er Jake Seaton and others on the team moved TechWire to a new website based on WordPress technology.
“All these changes have been key to TW’s survival and growth,” said Smith.
Smith appreciates the insight of his CBC colleagues in shaping TechWire.
“Were it not for the vision of James Amato and John Conway the TW today would be much different – if it were still alive,” said Smith. “To them I will be forever grateful. Of course, Jimmy made the decision to LTW. I doubt LTW would have survived much longer without his decision to hire me and buy it. Why did he? Well perhaps our results over the past 4 years have justified the purchase but not necessarily my hiring. I can be quite a pain!”
The past year has seen the adaptations and adjustments reap rewards.
“2022 was exceptional – more than 8 million page views; twice in a month (Sept and Dec) we achieved more than 1 million page views for the first time,” said Smith. “I’ve only had two reporters on payroll (not freelance) in those 20 years. Jason Parker and, preceding him, Chantal Allam (now at the N&O) were crucial to this growth.”
Smith also credits working more closely with WRAL Digital Director of Content Jodi Glusco and her team on WRAL.com as well as the team on WRAL News. He said they “cooperate on projects, stories, exchange of ideas, and much more.”
He continued, “TechWire’s success, in short, is the result of TEAM WORK. I can’t thank everyone at CBC enough for their encouragement, support, hard work and creativity in not only keeping TW alive but making it a contributor to the continuing growth of WRAL as a news operation and CBC as a company.”
Congratulations to WRAL TechWire on 20 years of growth covering tech news and to many more years of success!