You’ve got mail, and it could change the way you consume local Detroit news. Detour Detroit, an independent media company that delivers Detroit-centric content in the form of a weekly email newsletter, could be the missing link in digital journalism.
Written by and for the readers in and around the city of Detroit, Detour newsletters contain both original and curated content that features breaking news on city developments, information about up-and-coming small businesses and insights into Detroit neighborhoods.
It’s anything but traditional of current media companies as Detour seeks to apply the term “engagement,” literally by connecting content to local events where readers can interact and connect with people, businesses, non-profits and communities in and around the city of Detroit.
“We’re not just interested in writing stories but [we’re also interested in] how we can get our readers activated in the city of Detroit,” said creator Ashley Woods.
Woods left her position as Lead Digital Strategist at the Detroit Free Press in November 2017 after receiving $25,000 in funding and a year of mentoring from Lessin Media Group in Silicon Valley – she was one of five startups who won a grant.
“[The Detroit Free Press] was a good job, but a lot of the realities of the industry were difficult for me to deal with,” she explained. “Major news organizations want to get as many unique visitors and page views a month. There were a lot of things wrong with that model. They were spending so much time chasing the numbers instead of diving into engagement, events and branded products. That is what I was interested in.”
Woods also accepted a visiting scholarship at Harvard, where she studied local news and revenue models, as well as native advertising, marketing and memberships.
She launched Detour originally as a consulting agency, using the funding from Lessin Media Group, and later launched the Detour newsletter as an email. After a few months of learning and developing, Detour’s email audience has grown to 2,000, with click-through rates and engagement double the industry average.
“Our position with Detour is that there are a lot of positive things that aren’t being talked about,” Woods asserted. “We can all agree is that Detroit is on an upward swing and that there’s a lot of progress happening, but we need to make sure that the progress is felt by everybody.”
Enter “Neighbors,” a program launching this month on the Detour platform that is written by and for people living in neighborhoods in Detroit where Detour noticed a lack of both media coverage and general awareness.
Stories will feature locals from neighborhoods such as Warrendale and Virginia Park, giving them a platform to speak on neighborhood perspectives, issues and solutions.
“Someone who actually lives in Warrendale can offer a different perspective than a journalist who visits the neighborhood to write a story. I think that’s something a member would want to support. And it’s something you’re not going to read anywhere else,” said Woods.
You can read Detour content by signing up for the free Detour newsletter. Email blasts typically go out twice every week.
If you’re looking to get more involved with Detour, there is a yearly membership fee of $30 (less than $3 per month) that includes access to the Detour public newsroom, where you can submit story topics and even write op-ed pieces. Funds from the membership fee support events hosted by Detour as well as a local media startup in Detroit, Outlier Media.