Next week in Chicago publishers of hyperlocal news sites (that’s what places like shawneemissionpost.com are called) will gather to trade ideas and strategies in a conference sponsored by the small trade association to which most of us belong. It has nearly 150 members from around the country, each of them trying to do what we’re trying to do here in NEJC: Bring truly local news coverage to their communities that isn’t available anywhere else.
Some of the sites have special focus like tourism or tech, but most are covering neighborhood news just like we are. Some are in very urban environments like Brooklyn, Boston or Seattle. Some are in smaller, more rural cities. But many sit in the suburban shadows of a metro daily newspaper, just like us.
Sites (and networks of sites) like ours can’t be too small because they need enough readers to make it attractive for advertisers buy ads and reach their audience. But you can’t be too big, either, because then you push the boundary of what is meaningfully local to your readers — and you price local business owners out out of being able to advertise.
Still, you need economy of scale to lower the price structure and keep the operation sustainable in terms of both cost and manpower (these sites take A LOT of work to put out every day…) shawneemissionpost.com can’t stay a single-site, two-man operation forever.
Many of our costs — programming and design — don’t double when a second site is added. It takes startup capital, though, to expand, to lower the costs and keep the first site sustainable. Advertising alone does not provide that capital.
We chose not to go into debt (newspapers already tried that route), and we chose not to charge a subscription price to get shawneemissionpost.com (much like you pay a subscription fee to a newspaper).
Instead we chose to accept voluntary donations where each reader can contribute (with a maximum cap of $200) according to their means, motivation and the value they place on local news.
The jury is still out on what formula is going to work the best to keep local news in the neighborhoods. Along with our sister sites across the country, we will continue to experiment with different revenue ideas – and different news ideas.
We appreciate the collaboration of our readers on what you want to see on shawneemissionpost.com and the monetary support to keep it going. Hundreds and hundreds of readers have already stepped up to make their contributions — and we appreciate every one, no matter the level.
If you haven’t done so yet and you value the coverage we provide you free of charge each weekday, we hope you’ll take a moment to make a donation.
Thanks for your contributions and ideas.