Next wave? How Pittsburgh sports columnist left newspaper to launch own site; Nearly 14,000 paid subscribers

An excerpt from my latest column for Poynter.

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Dejan Kovacevic seemed to have everything in place. He was front and center in a passionate sports town as the lead columnist for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He had stability for his family with a nice salary and benefits.

Then last July, Kovacevic walked away from all of it to launch his own website. Even he jokes about the audacity of such a move in today’s precarious media environment.

“I had a momentary lapse of reason,” Kovacevic said.

Actually, Kovacevic, 48, had a vision that there was a better way for him to cover the Pittsburgh sports scene. Thus far, it is hard to argue with the results.

His site, DKonPittsburghSports, will hit its one-year anniversary with nearly 14,000 subscribers; he says they pay an average of $20 per year. He says the site also earns another $60,000 per year from sponsors.

Given the current growth, Kovacevic hopes to reach 20,000 subscribers by the end of 2015. He does the math and it comes to potential annual revenue of nearly $500,000.

“That’s a lot of money,” said Kovacevic, sounding almost surprised at that figure.

The money is more than enough for him to hire full-time Pirates and Penguins beat reporters for his site, and he is looking for someone to cover the Steelers. He adds he is paying “newspaper-level wages” for those positions.

Kovacevic, though, is the main attraction. He built a following with more than 20 years of covering sports in Pittsburgh. In 2011, he placed among the top 4 columnists in the Associated Press Sports Editors contest.

Kovacevic says he enjoyed working for newspapers, but he thought the future was elsewhere.

“Doing a site had been in my head for a long time,” Kovacevic said. “More than anything, it was the frustration with newspapers over their inability, slash, ignorance, slash, and unwillingness with how to deal with the needs and wants of their readers.”

 

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