BlockByBlock

Ideas and discussion from BxB2010 Summit

Charlottesville Tomorrow: 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

Charlottesville Tomorrow covers Charlottesville, Virginia — home to the University of Virginia — and the surrounding area, with a focus on land use, transportation, and community design issues. Brian Wheeler, the site’s executive director, is also an elected member of the Albemarle County School Board.

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?

Wheeler: Our site is non-profit.  We launched as a non-profit because our initial funding included major gifts from individual donors and this allowed them to make tax-deductible charitable contributions. Based on the feedback from the Block by Block 2010 conference, it appears both for profit and non profit approaches have their challenges and a key goal of this meeting is to help identify best practices and tools that will help both approaches be sustainable.

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

Wheeler: Charlottesville Tomorrow has two paid staff and up to two paid interns.  We do not utilize volunteers for core news reporting.  We are starting to engage and train volunteers to work on two special initiatives.  The first is a community wiki called cvillepedia.org and the second is a project to ‘build’ our community in Google Earth using Google Sketchup.

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

Wheeler: As executive director, all financial and administrative work, including fundraising, is my responsibility.  We utilize an outside bookkeeper who specializes in non-profit accounting to handle accounts payable.  Sources of revenue for 2010 are budgeted as follows: major gifts (73%); annual campaign gifts (4%); and grants (23%).

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

Wheeler: $176,000 represents revenue for first half of year, which is above break even for the period.  Our 2010 budget is $286,350 and we expect to just break even.

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 their class blog, Local Fourth.

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Written by richgor

October 20, 2010 at 4:11 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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