For years, media coverage of Baltimore City was overwhelmingly negative. Though Baltimore faces many challenges, the perception of the city does not match the experience of many people who live and work there. Further, mainstream media was overlooking an emerging movement to revitalize the city and create social impact for its most challenged neighborhoods.
What Weekly was an early self-initiated project of Brooke and Justin’s. The result is an online publication that expands Baltimore’s narrative by focusing on positive stories and remarkable artists, entrepreneurs and change makers regularly overlooked by mainstream media. Without any funding or capital, we were able build momentum by developing an authentic mission that inspired residents to contribute as volunteers. Over time, as we began to earn revenue with the publication, we were able to financially compensate all of our contributors. We distributed spectacular and engaging content that challenges people around the world to see the city in a new light. The goal was to have an impact on recruitment and retainment of residents, talent, and businesses in order to create positive economic impact and help Baltimore fulfill its potential.
Over seven years, What Weekly worked with hundreds of contributors to develop thousands of stories about Baltimore, read by hundreds of thousands of people in countries around the world. The award winning publication has been featured in the Guardian, New York Magazine, and Huffington Post among others. Many stories that were originated by What Weekly were later picked up by mainstream and national media.
By 2009, interactivity and increased bandwidth was opening up new opportunities to develop and distribute content in remarkably engaging ways that weren’t possible before. We explored several web-based projects for nearly a year before deciding to launch an online publication. We chose this platform simply because we had the skills to execute and it required no capital for us to launch. The initial focus on Baltimore’s artists and creatives was a reflection of our own experience in the city.
The progression of the brand over the years was a reflection of how the publication began as a DIY project and evolved into a company with dedicated staff and revenue.
Initially, What Weekly was conceptualized as an email magazine where the core content would be delivered weekly. The website was primarily an archive for past stories. Though the focus shifted from the weekly emailer to the website, the email continued to grow with an average open rate of 30%.
One of the problems we were seeking to solve when we launched What Weekly was that there were no curated digital events calendars that were user friendly in Baltimore. Each week we sorted through all of the events happening in the city and distributed the best via our popular events calendar.
What Weekly’s flagship website set the standard for online publications in Baltimore and was widely emulated by competitors. This version of the website was designed by Brooke Hall Allen and graciously developed by Kyle Fritz pro bono.
Press & Awards
The Guardian said What Weekly has “their fingers on the pulse of all things hot and creative in Charm City.”
Baltimore City Paper, “Accentuate the Positive” August 18, 2011
Baltimore Magazine, Best New Magazine 2011
Baltimore Magazine, Best New School ‘Zine 2013
“Best Party of the Year!” -WYPR’s Aaron Henkin
The video recap of the Hoodoo party was produced by Shaun Callahan, with photos by Philip Laubner and Theresa Keil.
We conceptualized and launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise $10,000 which was then matched by a foundation for a total of $20,000. The campaign included original videos, social media, and email marketing.
Campaign Video #1
What Weekly Presents: A True Baltimore Love Story
Starring: Justin Allen and Brooke Hall
Directed by: Nancy Murray
Cinematography by: Carr Kizzier
Concept and script by: Nancy Murray, Justin Allen, Philip Laubner, David London, Brooke Hall
Photography: Philip Laubner
Make-up and Wardrobe: Julie Bent
Editing: David London and Brooke Hall
Total cost of video production: $22
Campaign Video #2
Produced by Matt Kelley
Soundtrack by Shodekeh and Jason Baker
As a thank you to Kyle Fritz for developing our original website, we threw a party in his honor at Geppi’s Entertainment Museum. Complete with costumes and sword swallowers, the comic book museum served as a phenomenal backdrop for an unforgettable event.