My co-author María J. Vázquez and I recently finished writing a case study on a hyperlocal community news site in Long Beach California, the Long Beach Post. As with so many of these entrepreneurial sites, the founders were doing a great job of journalism and technology. The challenge was on the business and sales side. How do you effectively generate revenues to sustain the enterprise? Here are 15 suggestions to consider if you are building a community news web business, or any web content business for that matter.
1. Webinar. Find a topic of interest to an audience and a particular advertiser. Have the advertiser put together a video to be aired on the site as a webinar. Readers sign up for it for free. The advertiser gets the names and emails of the attendees as possible sales leads in exchange for a sponsorship fee. A real estate agent might conduct a webinar on how to shop for a home, for example.
2. Microsites or Sole Sponsorships. Dedicate a portion of the site, or create a new one, to a single subject with only one exclusive advertiser. For example, all the content on a local high school team could be sponsored by a local car dealer.
3. Sponsored Newsletters. Send out a weekly email newsletter to subscribers on a specific niche topic, sponsored by one or two advertisers.
4. In-person Events. There are a whole range of possibilities here. Events can be high level training in a specific area of interest to local businesses, say “marketing your restaurant” to restaurant owners, in which an admission fee can be charged, or events can be open to the public and generate revenues by sponsorships. Business-to-business magazines do an excellent job of this. Check them out to see how it’s done.
5. Partnerships. Partner with other sites or blogs to sell advertising or participate in an online ad network. For example, find an online coupon site that will share revenues generated by readers who click through to it.
6. Google Ad Words. Although not usually a significant amount of revenue, some sites find this worthwhile, and very easy to implement.
7. Referral fees for product sales. Ecommerce sites like Amazon will allow you to put a “button” on your site and will give you a commission for any product sale generated by someone who clicks through from your site.
8. Paywall. If your information is exclusive and unique, that is, really unavailable anywhere else, readers might be willing to pay a subscription fee.
9. Archival fee. Old stories might be valuable to certain users. Consider charging for access to them.
10. Reader donations. Encourage readers to contribute to the site with a link on the home page for donations.
11. Advertising packages, premiums and discounts. Consider a wide variety of programs to encourage advertisers to participate. For example, a long term ad commitment has a discount, first time advertisers have a discount, referring another advertiser generates a discount, etc.
12. Sales incentives. Incent sales people to focus on a particular industry or type of advertising program by creating special one-time commissions.
13. Consultant services. Some publishers of community news sites have successfully generated substantial earnings from consulting services on such topics as local marketing, social media, and community building.
14. Store. If you develop content to engage and attract a certain niche of people, then why not go into direct sales yourself and offer products you know will appeal to them?
15. By-products. Journalists can also create products related to their activity or specialization. How about a book or training DVD?