But GoLocalProv, a news and culture site launched last year by public relations guru Josh Fenton and Internet radio expert Paul Krasinski, watched a partnership with WPRO unravel quickly — and in acrimonious fashion.
Fenton says the three-year deal fell apart when golocal rejected a buyout offer from the talk radio station's parent, Citadel Broadcasting. Barbara Haynes, general manager at WPRO, says Citadel never offered to buy golocal.
"Simply, I did not find sufficient value in the partnership to continue so we parted ways," she wrote in a statement.
Hummel, for one, wonders if golocal can weather the split. "I think it's really a tough go when you don't have a promotion outlet," he says.
But Fenton downplays the importance of the rupture. Unique visitors to the site, if still a fraction of the number claimed by projo.com, increased some 75 percent in the last three months, he says, even without a major media partner.
Indeed, Fenton — a hard-charging former Providence City Councilman with long ties to Rhode Island's political establishment — seems convinced that he has the answer to the local news conundrum.
The GoLocalProv offices, in a small basement suite on Weybosset Street in downtown Providence, shout startup — all glass and brick and open spaces.
Fenton sits at the head of a large conference table — surrounded by a small staff that includes senior editor Chip Young, a former columnist for the Phoenix — and scrolls through projo.com on his laptop.
"If you just take their lead stories, that they say are the most important stories . . . census story's been around for two weeks, great, everybody's reported on that . . . fix DMV — we had . . . Providence schools.
"I mean, we beat them on every aspect of these things," he says, to nods around the table, "and these things aren't even on our front page anymore, because they're days old."
If Fenton's soliloquy comes with a heavy dollop of businessman's braggadocio, there is some truth to it. Sports editor Scott Cordischi, a veteran of local talk radio, has broken stories on Providence College basketball.
And the site's sole, full-time news reporter — the enterprising Stephen Beale, who worked as a part-time conservative activist before joining the site — has gotten out ahead of several stories.
He recently dug up a letter from Education Commissioner Deborah Gist, for instance, maintaining that Providence Mayor Angel Taveras's decision to fire all the city's school teachers was legal.
But golocal, which pitches itself as light years ahead of the ProJo on all things digital, has remained curiously averse to some of the more attractive elements of the web: aggregation, blogging, and the like (the Providence Phoenix, it should be said here, is not exactly trailblazing in this regard — we have precisely one blogger).
And it has also developed a reputation, among local pols, reporters, and public relations professionals, for factual errors, questionable stories, and showy headlines — "Exclusive!" "Investigation!" — without the substance.
The site's first major series, suggesting that Sheldon Whitehouse pushed for a federal grant for Quonset Business Park in exchange for a job for his wife, had observers scratching their heads for several reasons. Chief among them: Whitehouse's wife, as golocal's stories dutifully noted, didn't actually land the job.