Life @ Overstory

100 days into a media startup, here’s how it’s going

📍 Vancouver, BC - If you were to ask me what the riskiest move of my career would be - I would say doing what I’m doing now. Starting a company during the pandemic feels like a story we’ve all heard before but starting a media company during one of the most turbulent times for the industry, that’s an adventure. 

The past few years have driven us all to think deeply about the work we’re doing, why we’re doing it, and reevaluate our purpose personally and professionally. Some call this period the ‘Great Resignation’ because of the unparalleled number of people leaving their companies (myself included).

All this was not lost on me when I decided to dive headfirst into creating our company, Overstory Media Group (OMG). My goal was to take the experiences (good and bad), learn from those, do things right and create a company people want to be a part of. 

So, how is it going? 

We’re now 100 days in at OMG and have had some highs I can’t help but be proud of. In just 100 days, we hit more than 100K subscribers across our newsletters, with the majority coming in the last few months. We grew four new community brands: Fraser Valley Current, Burnaby Beacon, The Westshore, and Calgary Citizen. And, we launched our first paid membership program for our largest publication, Capital Daily

We often decide where we go next based on what we hear from the community itself. And a lot of them share the same feedback, “I wish we had better reporting. I wish we had a way to stay connected to our community. I wish I knew what was going on.” While we must respect the establishment, the local essence has been lost. It’s not enough to say you’re “local” by simply having a website filled in large part by regionally and nationally syndicated content. 

People care deeply about what’s happening in their own backyard. So building a source that’s for the community, by the community is paramount to creating a successful local brand.

Finding the right people

Looking at our teams, the way we’re structured is fairly unique. Our teams are working remotely, distributed across Canada and around the world. This comes with its own benefits and challenges. The benefit is that we get to work and learn from a very diverse group of people with a multitude of backgrounds, who each bring their own perspectives to the table. 

We’ve found the smaller communities are the ones looking for a fresh community voice the most. The challenge here is finding the right people in those regions.

We’re on the hunt for those who believe in the work we’re doing, are willing to take the risk to join a media startup during this time, can produce phenomenal content, and are from the communities we’re in.

This is an evolving problem we’re working hard to solve, but we’re making progress. Every community is different and we recognize that not everyone may have the same background and experience. So we’re looking into ways to train, level up, and support teams so they are equipped to deliver the quality content their community needs and deserves. When we say we’re committed to strengthening our communities, it’s not only through content but through people. 

I look at the people leading our publications and can’t help but think about the leap of faith they all took to be here. Something that OMG has that makes us unique, is that shared sense of purpose and duty we all have to our communities.

Partners who see the opportunity

We have wonderful partners who believe in community as much as we do. Who understands that creativity and effective advertising is not only reserved for the giants, and that if we can bring more like-minded people together, we can achieve anything.  

Our partners see the potential in building connections with real people and the impact a strong local voice can have. We have dozens of brands who trust us but we’re looking for more who share the same values, are open to take a chance on something new and interested in building communities. 

I know we’re only 100 days in but I can’t help but feel optimistic and excited about the years to come based on the start we’ve had. I expect it to be challenging and to get thrown a ton of curveballs along the way. But that’s the fun of building something new, right?

Farhan Mohamed is the Co-founder & CEO of Overstory Media Group. Connect with him on LinkedIn and Twitter at @farhanmohamed.