5 Revenue Diversification Strategies for Hyperlocal Publications

newspaperRevenue 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.

  1. January 7, 2014

    Diversifying is critical though be wary of if-you-build-it-they-will-come. Having both an engagement strategy (to get people to use things like the directory) and a monetization strategy to onboard, up-sell and retain businesses is critical.

    We’ve just published a blog post highlighting 14 revenue opportunities for publishers http://locable.com/14-revenue-opportunities-publishers-have-with-digital-advertisers/ that may be useful for publishers.

  2. West Seattle Blog
    January 9, 2014

    I mentioned this to Stephanie when she asked if we had anything to contribute to this discussion, and it still stands – I would like to know if any actual for-profit, in-the-black NEIGHBORHOOD news site anywhere – true hyperlocal – has an actual major source of revenue besides advertising.

    And by major revenue (you big VC companies, don’t laugh, it’s all relative) I mean five digits.

    None of these examples are from neighborhood operations – Crosscut is at the very least all of Seattle and could be argued as regional beyond that, Twin Cities is two large cities, New Haven is one not-so-small city, Yellowstone is a high-profile resort town/area drawing MILLIONS of visitors each year, and it’s the ONLY for-profit site on the list.

    I am not downplaying ANYTHING these companies have done – congratulations to them all for their success and efforts – but it’s not applicable to many of us so I am just wondering if there is anyone in “our” category that has something to share.

    Just to pick out one suggested area – events might work if you are serving an entire city or region or moneyed topic niche (like GeekWire does here in Seattle), but in a neighborhood? If events charge any admission at all in a neighborhood, it’s usually a donation to a nonprofit. At this level, you can burn off the goodwill fast if you go around sticking your hand out for every little thing (which is what Mr. Locable below is mostly suggesting).

    Anybody out there with a profitable, commercial neighborhood (not citywide, not regional) site and significant non-ad revenue? Anyone? Just very curious! – Tracy @ WSB

  3. Matt - TownSquareBuzz.com
    January 10, 2014

    We’re doing all of these but had to resort to launching a paid subscription program just this week. We plan to offer subscribers discounts/free entrance to events, promotions, business partners, etc in the near future.

    1. Jason Randell
      January 27, 2014

      How have the “free” offers been working our for you?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Next Post

Street Fight Daily: YP Buys Sense Networks, Taskrabbit Delivers Cold Medicine