A group of students from the University of Rhode Island and other universities have started their own online source for sports and news, which they have compared to the content of the popular Barstool Sports.

It all started with a Tumblr blog. Steven Souza and a few of his friends began writing local Rhode Island news online, focusing on Aquidneck Island, as a hobby. After a few months and positive reinforcement from their friends, they expanded this hobby to its own website and social media pages, and from there, the idea took off.

Locals Only 401 is a news website centering around Rhode Island, with specific focuses on local news, college news, sports news and more general sports and news from New England. The colleges included are all Rhode Island-based – URI, Providence College, Bryant, Salve Regina and Roger Williams. The website just celebrated its two-year anniversary, and, Souza said, new things are coming.

Souza explained that the site is in the middle of a complete rebranding. This rebranding is due sometime in April, and expected to include a shift in focus and direction of stories shared on the site. Locals Only 401 plans to begin focusing more on Rhode Island colleges. The relaunch will also include a new apparel line that “embodies the Rhode Island lifestyle”.

The website appeals to college students more than any other demographic, and they want to make that clear in the relaunch, Souza said. He added that the website will have “new brandings, [a] new logo, a new look and feel – up until now it’s still kind of been like a hobby.”  

The website focuses heavily on local and college news, with the writers being mostly college students.

The four co-founders are Souza himself, who is a URI student; Alan Wojichowski, who attends UMass Lowell; Sam Gorton, a URI graduate; and Rian Mccarthy, who lives and works in Newport. They all assume different roles when it comes to the website’s production.

As for the articles, Souza said there are a handful of writers under them. Most of the writers were acquired by word of mouth, a few are friends and some have applied on the website. Many are college students from URI or Salve Regina. The writers are not paid, but Souza explained that the writing is a good chance at gaining experience.

“[It is a] great way for college students, especially if you’re into writing, to build your resume,” Souza said. “Even if you’re not into writing and you’re just an average student, it looks good on your resume. That’s probably the biggest appeal.”

Souza is hoping that in the near future, the website will bring in enough of an income that the writers will be able to be compensated for their work. As of now, all the money that’s made from Locals Only 401 is pushed right back into the site. Money is made for the site from advertisements and apparel for sale.

The rebranding of the website will hopefully attract more advertisements, which could eventually make the website into more than a hobby, and instead, an income based job for the co-owners. They attempt to sponsor college events, such as greek life related programs and bar nights, in order to get their name out and their popularity heightened among the crowds they hope to reach.  

Their popularity is slowly growing, according to Souza. Mat Franco, a URI graduate and former winner of America’s Got Talent, has shared some of their articles on his social media pages, and local news pages have retweeted their stories on Twitter or shared their links on Facebook, which aids in getting the Locals Only 401 name out.

One of the main features found on the website is the summer video. Filmed exclusively in Rhode Island, Souza asked readers for videos from their 2015 summer in order to make a compilation video to share on the site.

He explained that greater than a dozen readers sent in a good amount of video, and those clips combined with his own and his friends made a video that he believes accurately represents summers in the Ocean State.

“[People] who really liked it were those kids who go away to college, halfway across the country, so they can show their friends what they call home,” Souza said. “I think this summer, instead of one summer video, we’ll do a summer series, a new video every other week or something.”

For more information on Locals Only 401, visit their website at localsonly401.com, or follow them on Twitter and Instagram at @localsonly401.