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Publisher point-of-view: What’s your revenue story?

Journalism Accelerator

We kicked off this year talking with a group of people with different experiences in news and publishing about what they anticipate in 2012. Since then, we’ve been asking more publishers, business pros and startups about their expectations and hopes for the year.

The JA online forum coming February 28th and 29th is designed for local news publishers and businesspeople to share their experiences and experiments creating revenue.

Cash Machine -- Upcoming Business Forum

Money and publishing: What different keys are you pressing to bring in revenue? Photo by Sean McMenemy on Flickr.

Some publishers – both new and legacy – have established multiple revenue streams and are now working to amp up the return. Some are successful in one revenue area but finding others – ads, events, community donations or something else – tough nuts to crack. Some are considering, or have taken, a hiatus as they evaluate how they might publish content to serve their targeted market AND thrive financially.

The forum February 28th and 29th features publishers with different experiences and intentions, but common business interests. More publishers, businesspeople, social media specialists and others with relevant tips or ideas are invited to share their perspective, offer and vet questions. On forum days, the real time conversation takes place over a 90 minute window. You can stop by to read the comment thread or add to the discussion anytime. It’s a chance to broaden your network, spark connections and trade ideas.

Here’s how it’s coming together.

One of the first people I “met” while researching is Joe Bergantino. A longtime journalist, he co-founded The New England Center for Investigative Reporting. It’s now based at Boston University, boosting the center’s brand, and earns revenue from both content sales and by training reporters.

This year, Bergantino wants to get more daily traffic to a site with core reporting that comes out monthly.

I also talked with Emily Lowrey. She earned an MBA and a lot of experience in online ads, deals and audiences as director of online operations for the Buffalo News. Last year she moved back to her hometown of Birmingham, Alabama, to start the Magic City Post. Her business plan shifted as she tested ideas with merchants, but emerged as a local shopping platform built to support local news coverage.

Fundraising remains a challenge, Lowrey says, but she’s adding contests and social media classes as new revenue streams. She’s ready to expand to nearby communities and wants to swap ideas with other publishers.

So does Diane Lund. She’s considering a premium subscription product to help fund The Lund Report, which specializes in covering Oregon’s health care industry. Lund wants to build more financial support from community donations but isn’t sure how.

These are the kinds of experiences we’ll explore during the February forum: the “how-to” behind the successes and the “what next” of the challenges publishers, like all businesses, have. We’ll add in insight from people whose focus on publishing is strictly business. Here’s what Blankslate CEO Kael Goodman told me: “Your editorial approach needs to be clear and your business drivers need to be clear too. Have both of these and you might just find yourself with engaged readers and paying advertisers.”

This conversation is designed for businesspeople, publishers, startups and others with relevant insights to trade expertise and ideas. We hope you can save the date!

WHAT: An online discussion forum for you to share what’s worked and to get ideas for challenges you face to make local publishing thrive financially.

WHEN: February 28th and 29th, with different publishers, entrepreneurs and business experts tackling a different focus each day.

Live discussion window both days: 2 PM – 3:30 PM Eastern / 11 AM 12:30 PM Pacific. The discussion is open for you to read through or contribute to during the live window or anytime it’s convenient.

HOW: A quick step by step is just below!

Step One: Set up your JA profile to participate in the conversation.

Authentication Screen

Step Two: Share a comment in the comment thread below with the business issues or opportunities you’d like the conversation to focus on.

Step Three: Keep an eye on this space! We’ll share more next week on the specific questions we’ll be tackling together, and offer more information about some of the people who plan to join in, guide and help inform the discussion on February 28th and 29th.

Like past JA forums, this is a hosted, online conversation. As you participate, you are able follow the thread onsite or by subscribing to the comment thread via email or RSS. You can chime in anytime with ideas and questions. We are constantly fine-tuning and iterating the conversation platform, tweaking the technology based on feedback each forum cycle. So if you’ve been with us before, you’ll notice a few things are different.

  • A shorter live window, down from two hours to 90 minutes. We know publishers are busy. This allows enough time for some depth without monopolizing your afternoon. Of course you can stop by and join in during any portion of the live chat. If you miss the live window, the thread is open to read and chime in with ideas anytime, as conversations sparked in these forums typically have a healthy shelf life.
  • More deliberate matchmaking. We are selecting featured participants – publishers, businesspeople and others – whose experiences complement each other. This is designed to keep the conversation focused and useful, and easily identify which day’s discussion best matches your interests.
  • Easier ways to see the heat in the conversation. Faster load times, a more visible “latest comments” box to the side and a new comment nesting design to follow and participate in the conversation more easily.
  • Easier ways to start new relationships from the conversation. More links to see who else is participating – a key way to build connections from the conversation.

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Help shape this conversation before it starts! Tell us here what successes you’ve had or seen in local news publishing, and what challenges you are looking to overcome in 2012.