Entrepreneurship, tech savvy create the Digitel, an online news source in Charleston

By Matt Horton bio | email

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Sometimes the hottest jobs in a recession are the ones with the most risk. Entrepreneurs are taking chances and banking on their novel business approaches and many of them are giving the established, traditional businesses a run for their money.

According to USA Today, one in ten people who gained employment during the first quarter of 2009 did so by starting their own business.

As Austin Dandridge at the Digitel said, "People are not really hip to sit around and just let things happen."

Dandridge said people are looking for something new and fresh and a large part of moving forward when everyone else is scaling back is hitting on a delicate mix of what's familiar and adding to it a new approach or a fresh outlook.

They, the recession-based entrepreneurs, build on existing ideas already in the market. They aren't out to re-invent the wheel, just to remodel it.

For example, the Digitel is Charleston's newest news source. "We compile news from all the different sources around the area, the state, and make a compact version for readers," said Dandridge.

[Check out www.thedigitel.com]

It's news aggregation, Charleston-style. Web surfers log on, click links to learn more about stories from existing media outlets based on staff-written summaries.

Similar ventures have proven successful, too. Arianna Huffington started the Huffington Post, an online news aggregator, in 2005, but HuffPo has a lot of commentary on the news that the Digitel doesn't take on.

They scour the local and state web and compile major headlines in one place.

The approach is still brand new, although larger companies are testing the waters after the decline of newspaper sales. However, the team at the Digitel have a self-ownership advantage over the conglomerates.

"You kind of pave your own way as opposed to someone telling you what to do," said Dandridge.

It's riskier, but the ability to adapt to the changing market and constantly updating technologies is paying off. While the Small Business Association of America said in 2006 that 50 percent of all small businesses fail within the first year, the Digitel is going strong as they approach their one-year anniversary.

According to Dandridge, the Digitel is pulling in 5,000 hits each day, about one-fourth of the hits live5news.com gets in a day, a strong hit count for a website that's only been around about a year.

But what really matters, especially in these fiscally tight economic times, is the money. Dandridge said his hourly rate is double that of most reporters in the local news business. Perhaps that's a sign it's a better time than ever to do your own thing.

"There's not much appeal nowadays for working for a giant organization," said Dandridge.

He may be right. According to MSN, a list of the top ten college majors in 2009 included management, economics -- and entrepreneurship.

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