State Affairs: from Startup to Success in 4 Months

State Affairs was born from the clear-eyed vision of Evan Burns and Jamie Seltzer. They saw the state of media in 2021, bristling with buzz but hobbled by a glaring lack of state capital news coverage. Their mission: to bring accountability and transparency to the forefront and no question unanswered in state-level politics. 

State Affairs wanted to make their voice heard in an often overlooked arena of politics. Turning the concept into a product, however, is not always straightforward. Their initial attempt at a custom-built platform was like trying to fit a square peg in a round hole – slow, difficult, and far from ideal. Their previous digital partner had saddled them with a product that was difficult to maintain and scale. More than that, their launch date was breathing down their necks, and they knew they needed a change. Enter Refact.

With State Affairs’ tight turnaround time, we developed a dynamic and scalable product in just four months. Our solutions supported their plan to increase readership and improve user and editorial experiences while laying the groundwork for digital growth. Let’s see how.

A Bespoke Solution Empowering Content Creators and Readers

State Affairs had seen how our partnership with Trends allowed them to quickly scale to over a million subscribers and get acquired by Hubspot. They were impressed with how we delivered the project and our ability to work with tight deadlines. They decided to contact us. Their wish list was clear: 

  • A user-friendly platform that could handle their growth without breaking a sweat. 
  • An inviting environment for their content creators. 
  • A seamless user experience to keep their subscribers coming back for more.

We were not content to take things as they were and run with it. The solution we provided had to consider State Affairs’ unique business model. 

Their product has two equally vital sides: consumer and business. Aside from the usual subscriber-facing side, they also wanted a platform that could help streamline the acquisition of other newsletters and publishers. The acquisition of each independent publisher involves migrating its data, content, user subscription, and business membership information over to State Affairs. Their new platform also had to be compatible to integrate with their ESP.

WordPress that Works: A Tailored Platform for Ease and Scalability

Instead of going for an over-complicated custom tech stack, we decided WordPress was the best fit for State Affairs. We also realized that their small start-up team needed the right talent to manage product development and strategy. We added our expertise in strategic consulting, product management, UX and UI designers, as well as front-end and back-end programmers to the project to speed up the process. 

Using a customized WordPress as a CMS offered a dynamic platform and supported their state-by-state acquisition and expansion model. Our developers tailored the new product to meet State Affairs’ content strategy. This empowered their editors to create and publish content quickly and easily. Once the platform was set up, our team worked closely with key stakeholders at State Affairs to transfer data and content from the newly acquired state to the new platform. 

Our developers took a creative approach to creating new site features and the final product. They integrated the State Affairs subscription system with the new platform to reduce costs and improve accessibility. Also, they created a Paywall-enabled CMS powered by WordPress to enhance email capturing. 

The goal of the site was to improve user experience, capture more emails, and convert them to subscribers. We looked at user behavior and carried out A/B testing to optimize flow and design. Our product and design team also collaborated with State Affairs members to create workflow mapping and relevant wireframes.

State Affairs’ Sample Guest Home Page
State Affairs’ Sample Subscriber Welcome Page

In just four months, we reimagined, rebuilt, and revamped the State Affairs platform, providing them with the performance, scalability, security, and user-friendly CMS they needed for a stellar digital experience. 

The seamless migration of data, the consistent user experience, and the steady search rankings, all pointed to the success of the new platform. Each new state launch bolstered State Affairs’ growth rate, while our ongoing optimizations ensured the platform kept evolving with their needs. 

The migration of each state’s data and content, including massive numbers of subscriptions and membership plans, has proceeded without a hitch. There was no disruption to their service and user experience. No drop in search rankings was noticed after migration, as our team’s Search Engine Optimization (SEO) efforts resulted in nearly zero changes.

Their readers and subscribers have also continued to increase more quickly. State Affairs’ growth rate has seen a positive impact with each new state launch.

Our relationship with State Affairs is not just about a project but a testament to how we collaborate with content creators as digital partners, creating solutions, filling skill gaps, and delivering results in record time. 

State Affairs is not just a case study for us; it is a success story we are proud to be a part of. And if there’s one thing we’ve learned from this journey, it’s that with the right partnership, no obstacle is too big.

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