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Startling starT-ups in the business of journalism. Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communications, Chicago, Aug. 11, 2012 Sponsors: Community Journalism Interest Group (ComJIG) a nd Media Management and Economics Division Panel:

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startling start ups in the business of journalism

StartlingstarT-ups in the business of journalism

Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communications,Chicago, Aug. 11, 2012

Sponsors:

Community Journalism Interest Group(ComJIG)

and Media Management and Economics Division

Panel:

Heidi Kulicke, Orange County Business JournalRich Gordon, Director of Digital Innovation, Northwestern

Amy Starlight Lawrence, project specialist, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Al Cross, director, Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, Kentucky

slide3

2010 study: 206 “micro-publishers”

in the Chicago area

  • 36 focusing on towns or neighborhoods (plus 15 other “hyperlocal” sites from organizations)
  • 170 focusing on niche audiences or topics
  • http://bit.ly/ChiLinks
example gapers block
Example: Gapers Block
  • “Chicago-centric news and events webzine,” heavy on outbound links
  • Started in 2003 by Andrew Huff, Ohio State journalism graduate
  • Large stable of volunteer writers/editors
  • Some success with ad sales
example brown line media
Example: Brown Line Media
  • Three hyperlocal sites focusing on northside Chicago neighborhoods
  • Founded by Mike Fourcher, an MBA with background in political campaigns
  • Pays editors (part-time) and writers on per-piece basis
  • Some success with ad sales
example chicago art magazine
Example: Chicago Art Magazine
  • Founded in 2009 by Kathryn Born, an artist and writer
  • Shut down in April 2012 after she encountered medical problems
  • Relied on volunteer writing staff
example live here oak park
Example: Live Here Oak Park
  • Founded in 2009 by Becca Martin, a marketing communications professional (and Oak Park resident)
  • Relies mostly on user-generated posts & forums
  • Helped Martin get job as community manager for EveryBlock.com
example evanstonnow
Example: EvanstonNow
  • Founded in 2007 by Bill Smith, a retired journalist and journalism educator who grew up in Evanston
  • Relies heavily on Smith’s reporting and writing
example progress illinois
Example: Progress Illinois
  • Founded in 2008 with financial support from the state council of the Service Employees International Union
  • Goal: “adding a progressive voice to the Illinois political media sphere”
  • Accepts advertising
other micropublishers
Other micropublishers
  • Theexpiredmeter.com: parking & parking tickets
  • Chicagofoodies.com: Food & restaurants
  • Beachwoodreporter.com: Chicago government and politics
  • Sportsblogs such as Bleedcubbieblue.com, Bearsbackers.com, Southsidesox.com,
  • Chicagonista.com: Eating, shopping, entertainment from moms’ perspective
  • ForgottenChicago.com: Chicago history
  • Badatsports.com: Arts scene in Chicago
chicago independent ad network
Chicago Independent Ad Network
  • Launched in September 2011 with seed funding from the Chicago Community Trust
  • Launched with 15 participating sites
  • Led by Mike Fourcher of Brown Line Media
  • Closed in April 2012
  • Why it failed:
    • Long sales cycle
    • 1 million impressions a month wasn’t enough
    • $12 CPM too high
when we set a link threshold we see site clusters
When we set a link threshold,we see site clusters

NewCityChicago

Sports

Tribune Co.

Music

Micropublisher core

some sites bridge otherwise disconnected regions
Some sites bridge otherwise disconnected regions

NewCityChicago

Periphery

Niche publishers

central cluster

Periphery

slide21

22 daily newspapers, only three with circulation above 25,000 (Louisville, Lexington, Cincinnati’s Ky. edition)

  • 125 paid-circulation weeklies, most the sole paper in a county; many counties are too small to support a robust news operation
  • Ky. is No. 1 generator of Topix traffic, suggesting a news vacuum being filled
  • 2 television markets entirely within state: Lexington-Hazard (5 stations), Bowling Green (1 that does news)
  • 8 other TV markets (including only one with a Kentucky station, Paducah)

Kentucky’s traditional news-medialandscapeNEWSPAPERS:Highly fractured among 120 counties, mostly small; almost fit any definition of community papersTELEVISION:10 markets, with almost half the counties in a market dominated by stations in other states

research project spring 2012

Identified 28 online news sites in Kentucky not affiliated with a newspaper (with one exception*)

  • 18 sites defined as active, posting stories more than 3 days per week (most posted daily)
  • 8 are part of a chain in Western Ky.: SurfKY.com (*one has the local weekly newspaper as its partner)
  • One very active site from a radio station
RESEARCH PROJECTspring 2012
content analysis1

The 18 active sites published an average of 10 stories per day, 2.5 reported and written by staff

  • About half of content was from press releases, half of those governmental
Content analysis
content analysis2

The 18 active sites published an average of 10 stories per day, 2.5 reported and written by staff

  • About half of content was from press releases, half of those governmental
  • About 17 percent of local content was submitted by local people and businesses
Content analysis
content analysis3

The 18 active sites published an average of 10 stories per day, 2.5 reported and written by staff

  • About half of content was from press releases, half of those governmental
  • About 17 percent of local content was submitted by local people and businesses
  • Little aggregation from other sources, reflecting local focus
Content analysis
content analysis4

The 18 active sites published an average of 10 stories per day, 2.5 reported and written by staff

  • About half of content was from press releases, half of those governmental
  • About 17 percent of local content was submitted by local people and businesses
  • Little aggregation from other sources, reflecting local focus
  • However, local government reporting was spotty
Content analysis
content analysis5

The 18 active sites published an average of 10 stories per day, 2.5 reported and written by staff

  • About half of content was from press releases, half of those governmental
  • About 17 percent of local content was submitted by local people and businesses
  • Little aggregation from other sources, reflecting local focus
  • However, local government reporting was spotty
  • Publishers consider obituaries very important, especially in markets where the newspaper is a weekly
Content analysis
analysis of posting patterns
ANALYSIS OF POSTING PATTERNS

Chain-operated sites tended to have more daily posts than independents

analysis of posting patterns1
ANALYSIS OF POSTING PATTERNS

No distinction between independents and chain in amount of local reporting

approaches and motives

Wide range of approaches, from simple blogs not intended to make money to relatively sophisticated, multi-location businesses with a profit objective

Approaches and motives
approaches and motives1

Wide range of approaches, from simple blogs not intended to make money to relatively sophisticated, multi-location businesses with a profit objective

  • Publishers seem driven mainly by desire to provide public service
Approaches and motives
approaches and motives2

Wide range of approaches, from simple blogs not intended to make money to relatively sophisticated, multi-location businesses with a profit objective

  • Publishers seem driven mainly by desire to provide public service
  • Some wanted a local alternative to Topix
Approaches and motives
approaches and motives3

Wide range of approaches, from simple blogs not intended to make money to relatively sophisticated, multi-location businesses with a profit objective

  • Publishers seem driven mainly by desire to provide public service
  • Some wanted a local alternative to Topix
  • Some are driven by desire to offer a political perspective different from the local newspaper
Approaches and motives
approaches and motives4

Wide range of approaches, from simple blogs not intended to make money to relatively sophisticated, multi-location businesses with a profit objective

  • Publishers seem driven mainly by desire to provide public service
  • Some wanted a local alternative to Topix
  • Some are driven by desire to offer a political perspective different from the local newspaper
  • Most had journalism experience, in print or broadcast
Approaches and motives
slide36

A HOMEGROWN ‘PATCH’?

Company with eight sites in Western Kentucky

slide37

A HOMEGROWN ‘PATCH’?

Founder says every story has a visual element because “people are visually driven.”

Company with eight sites in Western Kentucky

slide38

A HOMEGROWN ‘PATCH’?

Founder Ron Sanders says he is able to give advertisers something they have never had before: Reliable data on the reach of their advertising. “We can tell them what kind of response they’re getting –– and track it, too.”

slide39

LOOKING AHEAD

Observations by student researcher Richard Yarmy

Online news sites have the potential to become Community Newspapers 2.0

The main ingredients are: A dedicated local journalist, a logical business plan, a modest amount of seed money, sustaining resources and a coveted brand image. With several online news sites already successful in the state, it follows that their best practices could be combined with other good business principles to provide a road map –– call it Community Online News Startups for Dummies, if you will.

slide40

LOOKING AHEAD

Observations by student researcher Richard Yarmy

Online news sites have the potential to become Community Newspapers 2.0

The main ingredients are: A dedicated local journalist, a logical business plan, a modest amount of seed money, sustaining resources and a coveted brand image. With several online news sites already successful in the state, it follows that their best practices could be combined with other good business principles to provide a road map –– call it Community Online News Startups for Dummies, if you will.

slide41

LOOKING AHEAD

Observations by student researcher Richard Yarmy

Proven concepts and successful practices could be supplied to interested entrepreneurs

Start with a simple business plan: What will it take to operate in the first year? Estimate equipment, working space, salaries for a minimum of three stakeholders, everything you can forecast regarding expenses, both fixed and variable. Then project revenue: Take an intelligent guess on how many ads you can sell and inventory news sites of similarly populated counties, to gauge their penetration.

slide42

LOOKING AHEAD

Observations by student researcher Richard Yarmy

Understand the three legs of the online news business model: Journalism, Technical, and Business Operations (few people have sufficient expertise to do all three, or perhaps even two)