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Local news publishing: What’s needed to earn revenue?

Journalism Accelerator

A local publishing company

Photo by clemsonunivlibrar on Flickr

Plenty of experience at play in today’s forum on increasing revenue for local news sites. The thread is still open and well worth a read. Here are some highlights:

Of all the themes running through today’s conversation, I pick the word of the day as NEED. Start with this point from Dan Grech, news director of WLRN in Miami, on creating “indispensable” content:

“..indispensable content means providing information and perspectives that address the particular urgent needs of a niche audience.”

Then hear Emily Lowrey, founder of Magic City Post.

“I think if you go at it at that angle of just getting financial support for your journalism, that you’ll struggle. If you find a problem to solve though, you’ll get the support you need and flourish.”

Denise Civiletti says her site Riverhead Local, solves a problem just filling the local news hole.

“People often use the word “addicted” when they talk about our site. They say they know they can come to to find out what’s happening when it’s happening.”

So how do you figure out if there’s really a need? Ask questions, and test theories. Then use those same skills to find your business model. Joe Michaud coaches startup news sites. He says journalists’ skills of interviewing and questioning assumptions are great for figuring out a business plan. Many people today spoke about the challenge of providing quality content AND doing the business end. Community Impact Newspaper’s John Garrett has hired plenty of journos and sales reps recently as he’s re-pioneered an old path – he’s started a dozen community newspapers since 2005. If there’s no budget to hire everyone you want, he says think of sales differently.

“I dont think local news startups can afford to hire quality journalists AND quality salespeople AND make money. But if someone with a journalism background is passionate enough about their mission I would encourage them to try to get over the sales reluctance. People buy people.”

People in today’s conversation had a lot of specific tips on managing local news startups to maximize revenue. For example:

The question triggering the most passion today – measured in number of answers – took the group’s pulse on partnering with legacy news outlets. Who gains, who loses, and what’s the trade? There is more on collaboration negotiations between large and small publishers throughout the thread.

Today we got a lot of feedback that the forum platform can be hard to follow as the conversation unfolds at a rapid pace during the live chat. That is really helpful information; creating the ideal online conversation is a nut we want to crack. Meanwhile, we’ve posted some tips to get the most out of this format on tomorrow’s forum page. How do you make niche news startups work financially? Join in tomorrow at 11 AM Pacific / 2 PM Eastern to weigh in and find out.