Reader Question: How to Monetize a Local News Source

400px-Baltimore24

A reader just sent me a question about how to monetize a local news blog / website. I run through my opinion on what the best practices are and how I would do it. If you have any other ways you think could work or a question of your own, leave a comment or shoot me an email.

Question:

Had an idea for an online newspaper in the area I live that addresses tough issues that other newspapers don’t address. One more quick note: if I did have this potential online newspaper funded by ads from local businesses, I’d be drawing from an area of about 30-40,000 people.

I love the idea behind a newspaper or blog that covers the tough issues, especially in a local area. The initial marketing is much easier because your target is so clearly defined. But there are a lot of issues to address here.

Where is the content coming from?

If you plan on addressing the tough issues instead of just reporting on the local scores from Friday night’s football game, it’s going to take time. A lot of time, a lot of research and it has to be quality. So initially if it’s just you launching this, then you’re going to have to spend probably 90% of your time writing.

The form of content “tough news issues” is good. People vested in the town or area will care and be interested in reading that. But what you have to consider is the frequency? Are you going to be weekly, bi-weekly, daily? It’s unfortunate that you might spend 100 hours researching and writing one piece and then the lifespan for that is only 24 – 48 hours. In the news / media world our attention span is constantly shifted to newer things, how can you keep them reading?

Advertisements from who?

You may be able to sell advertisements to local businesses who want to appeal to your audience, but so much of this is going to depend on the amount of pageviews. In media pageviews = $$$. Given that you won’t have the same frequency as a more traditional news source, it’s just not going to work. You won’t make enough money to survive or compensate you for your hours, so I would immediately start thinking of an alternative means.

Maybe from day one you roll out a subscription model where it’s $2 a month or $20 for the year. If the content is good, people will pay because there’s no one else providing that type of information on your area. Think about the people who have moved away, but still care about the serious things that go on?

Start first – monetize second

Before you consider the different ways to monetize, you want to launch. Start publishing, sharing and see what the community response is. You may get into this and find out three weeks later that no one cares (including you) and you want to move onto someone else. If you invest a few hours writing, then nothing is lost. It’s good that you’re thinking about ways to monetize, but since you’re not at the stage yet where that’s even an option just go for it first. If you build something great, there will be ways to make money off of it. Be prepared to invest your time, energy and sweat until you start to see any results. It might be weeks, months or probably a year or two before you really catch on.

To be successful at this you’re going to have to develop a large social following. Follow some of the more popular news anchors on twitter, facebook, etc and stalk their strategies. Come up with your own and go!

Final thoughts: Start this as a hobby, invest more time as it grows. It will take a lot of time to build the authority and audience you need in order to monetize in any way.

Here’s a media kit for a local Baltimore publication for comparison.

benhebert

I make money online through websites and business consulting. Everyday I'm challenging myself to learn and do more.

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