BlockByBlock

Ideas and discussion from BxB2010 Summit

Church Hill People’s News: Where’s the Money?

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One of the major topics at the Sept. 24 Block by Block summit was money: How can a local news site support itself financially? Journalism master’s students from the Medill School at Northwestern University interviewed conference participants about their business and revenue strategies.

We hope these posts will continue conversations that started at Block by Block. If you have ideas that will help these and other online community publishers achieve their goals or questions about how they are doing that, please join the discussion in the comments. Thanks!

By Eddy Rivera

Church Hill People’s News is a neighborhood-focused site in Richmond, Va. It is part of a network of neighborhood sites in the city. John Murden founded Church Hill People’s News in 2004.

Is your site for profit or non profit? Why did you go that route initially? Have you learned anything since that makes you think about going the other direction? Why do you think one or the other is more promising?

Murden: The site is for profit. Initially, money was not a part of the picture — the only cost was hosting and that was low enough to eat as part of my hobby.

As we worked to launch other community sites in the metro area, we became aware of our reach and have since begun to make some money. The real catalyst for this was having a specific individual join our collective who brought a stronger entrepreneurial instinct. We had a working network of local community blogs first; he moved to make an advertising collective and arrange for a salesperson to sell the space.

We like the idea of making money, though only our two or four most trafficked sites are really making anything worth talking about. The sales rep is living off of the income, and within a year or two, we could have a few more of us as professional bloggers. Then we can really get this going.

How much of your site is powered by volunteers and how much by paid staff? Can you briefly describe how they’re organized?

Murden: We have a network of 13 community blogs. Each has an editor/publisher fully responsible for that site. They find, generate, or harvest news and post it. The established sites have very ad hoc volunteers who send stuff in as they find it.

We are working on doing community training to get more involvement. After Block by Block 2010, this has jumped way up our to-do list.

What are your sources of revenue? Do you have a dedicated revenue person? What does that person do exactly?

Murden: We have an ad network across the 13 community blogs, a local blog aggregator, and the community blog aggregator.  We have a person that sells ads across the network. There is [one common ad position] on all the sites — this is the “network ad.” You can only buy this spot across the entire group. There are smaller adverts; you can buy these spots a la carte on specific sites at a smaller price.

How much revenue did you bring in January-June this year? How much would you have liked to bring in to break even?

Murden: I’m not sure how much I made, I really need to start tracking that. Maybe $3,000 for me, my one site. This is after the sales person is fully paid, and does not include the rest of the network. A jump in ad sales means that I will likely double this for the last six months of the year.

The site that aggregated the community blogs also publishes original content, but is built on the foundation of having daily community news to pull. They pay folks to freelance, and I was able to scoop up a good deal of work this year doing that, too.

These interviews were conducted as part of a class at the Medill School of Journalism that’s focused on new approaches to hyperlocal publishing.  To follow the class’s work, check out the class blog, Local Fourth.

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Written by richgor

October 14, 2010 at 6:39 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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