Revenue diversification is a hot topic within the hyperlocal community, as publishers seek out new ways to generate income without sacrificing the quality of the products they provide. Some publishers are gaining audience share by partnering with other local media, some are focusing on mobile ad strategies, and others are competing for grants as non-profit organizations.
What they all have in common is an interest in finding new ways to expand beyond traditional banner ads. Here are five strategies for revenue diversification, from editors and publishers who work in the hyperlocal industry.
1. Launch a business directory. “I am working on a business directory for Yellowstone Gate that will include listings for hotels, restaurants, attractions and activities, and I hope to create a recurring annual revenue stream that will attract advertisers who want visibility, but at a more affordable price and for a longer duration than a month-by-month banner ad buy. The idea is to position Yellowstone Gate as a trusted source of news and information where Yellowstone visitors will turn to find out where to eat, shop, and dine.” (Ruffin Prevost, Yellowstone Gate)
2. Start hosting events. “You need to have an event or two in order to charge for tickets and sponsorships. Events, like conferences, summits, workshops, and meet-ups, are important. I think you can tailor your event to an audience. Perhaps an education conference for parents, for example, or a small business conference for local businesses.” (Greg Shaw, Crosscut Public Media)
3. Seek out donations from local readers. “We’re not-for-profit. We don’t do banner ads — or ads, per se. We do sponsorships, a la NPR, with branding logos in the right-hand column. We also pursue grant funding and reader donations. For our first five years, 75% of our money came from larger foundations, mostly out of town. Now 75% of our money comes locally, from individual philanthropists, a local foundation, and individual readers.” (Paul Bass, New Haven Independent)
4. Solicit content category sponsors. “I have major sponsors on board for a 2014 campaign. They will be the presenting sponsors for content categories. A Yellowstone concessioner will sponsor a series about activities in Yellowstone and Grand Teton. A regional museum will sponsor a series looking at the science behind wildlife management. They will have no influence over series content, but their banners will be run-of-site and also woven into each of these series. They’ll be the ‘presenting sponsor’ the way large underwriters are shown as sponsoring shows on public television. This gives major sponsors a level of prestige and community goodwill that goes beyond the banner ad.” (Ruffin Prevost, Yellowstone Gate)
5. Charge for media training courses. “We are a non-profit, so our business model is very different from the for-profit locals and hyper-locals. The most promising revenue streams that we see are expanding our offerings of public media skills classes and customized media training programs; offering low-cost media services — like social media consulting, low-cost websites, and videos — and generating more revenue from large and small donor/members, events and sponsorships.” (Jeremy Iggers, Twin Cities Media Alliance)
Interviews have been edited for length and clarity.
Stephanie Miles is an associate editor at Street Fight.