MySteinbach.ca: strong community brings success

MySteinbach.ca co-founders Brad Kehler and Corwyn Friesen.
MySteinbach.ca co-founders Corwyn Friesen (left) and Brad Kehler.

Ask Brad Kehler and Corwyn Friesen what’s behind the success of their community news site mySteinbach.ca, and they answer quickly: their community cares about what’s going on.

Kehler and Friesen, who met while working at the local Ford dealership, left their secure jobs and founded the site seven-and-a-half years ago. As they tell it, Friesen showed Kehler the early pages of mySteinbach and convinced him there was a need for a portal in the community to share news and information.

Steinbach has a local weekly paper in town, The Carillon.

“It comes out on a Thursday. What if local news happens on Friday? ” Kehler said

Though neither of the two were journalists, Kehler and Friesen set off to create a community news hub without a single writer to help.

They rented an office, mostly because they wanted people to take them seriously, and not be “two guys working out of a basement.

“If we didn’t have the office presence, we wouldn’t get the buy in,” Kehler explained. “We were in this to do this, we needed to give it all we’ve got.”

Steinbach is a little more than an hour south of Winnipeg.
Steinbach is an hour south of Winnipeg.

Editorial content

At the beginning, they didn’t have any writers providing the content. Friesen’s 75-year-old father, a minister, was one of the first to start writing for the site, blogging about religion.

These days, mySteinbach.ca’s editorial content comes from various sources.

The site also pulls in popular news feeds, including those from CBC Manitoba, The Winnipeg Free Press, the Winnipeg CTV affiliate, and am radio station CJOB.

There is an emphasis on local content, with more than a dozen bloggers writing on a range of subjects:

  • Political Podium, from MP Vic Toews, Manitoba MLA Kelvin Goertzen and local political commentator Candice Maxymowich
  • RCMP – publishing ‘D’ Division press releases for Manitoba and local
  • Agricultural Voice – Beef and Dairy farmers 
  • Green Community 
  • Faith/Religion including a Chaplain’s Corner
  • Health, examining health living and a blog ‘grow, eat, love’
  • Financial Focus offering financial advice
  • Various Community blogs  – Life at Speed (Racing) , Soap Box Derby, Girl Guides and Village News (Mennonite Heritage Museum)

Of its bloggers, Kehler and Friesen say only about half have been asked to write for mySteinbach.ca. The others have approached Friesen and Kehler.

Friesen schedules bloggers, organizing their publication dates around providing fresh content to the site. He does minimal editing of the content. (ie. fixing typos)

There isn’t an opportunity to comment on posts made on the site, as Kehler and Friesen said they feel the need to protect people who have written for them, and don’t want to hire a third person to moderate comments.

“If people want to comment on a story, they can do it when they share it on Facebook or other social media,” Kehler said.

Steinbach is key to success

To understand the success of mySteinbach is to understand the community.

(Note: Kehler and Friesen were quick to point out that success does mean that they are local media barons. “Really, we’re just your average people from Steinbach. MySteinbach.ca allows us to support two families,” Kehler said.)

Faith is an important part of life in Steinbach (there are 21 churches in the area). The Southland Church underwent a $15-million renovation - all private donations.
Southland Church. Faith is an important part of life in Steinbach (there are 21 churches in the area).
Steinbach is a devout, family-oriented, conservative city with a Mennonite background. There are 21 churches in the area, including the massive non-denominational Southland Church  (Friesen and Kehler both attend the church).
The church is a good example of the philanthropic spirit of the community, Kehler said. Its recent $15-million expansion is funded completely by private donations.
Steinbach’s population of 13,000 makes it Manitoba’s third-largest city, but it is also the fastest growing community in the province.
There is a high number of immigrants moving to Steinbach from the Philippines, Germany and Russia. They are usually large families, Kehler explained, with up to 10 and 12 people in each family.

Also important to life in Steinbach are traditional family values that extend into business relationships. People support each other in Steinbach, Kehler explained.

A huge amount of their business is done through referrals, or because you do business with someone who is trusted. Simply put, people want to see the people they know and care about succeed.

With its strong sense of family, business in the community is built around connections and referrals, Brad Kehler said.
With its strong sense of family, business in the community is built around connections and referrals, Brad Kehler said.

Dollars and cents

Revenue at mySteinbach.ca is generated through advertising using cpm rates. Included in the sites’ advertisers is the local Ford dealership where Friesen and Kehler once worked.

“The auto dealers have been good to us. They’ve treated us well,” Kehler said.

The site also makes money from its local job and business listings.
Friesen and Kehler also act as consultants to local businesses, offering marketing strategies to improve reach to the consumer.

The beauty of being small

Kehler and Friesen don’t have any plans to expand mySteinbach.ca, nor do they see any need to add anyone to their team.

However, being a two-man team means the pair can be nimble, and adjust the site and business plan as needed.

MySteinbach is now in its third iteration, with an eye towards being more mobile friendly. (“Though mobile traffic accounts for less than 20 per cent of overall traffic,” Friesen pointed out.)

“If we want to make a change, or doing something differently, we just do it,” Friesen said.

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