News Leadership 3.0

Posts tagged with: Advertising

December 22, 2009

Civic topic pages: Boost local traffic, democracy

In most communities, getting up to speed on—and involved in—local civic issues is more work than it should be. In a guest post, Amy Gahran offers one strategy that will enable news organizations to help communities, democracy and their own bottom line by making local civic info easier to find, understand, and use.

(This is the third in a series of guest posts about how news organizations and other institutions can implement the findings of the Knight Commission on the Information Needs of Communities in a Democracy, This joint project of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the Aspen Institute Communications and Society program produced the report, “Informing Communities: Sustaining Democracy in the Digital Age”. Read more articles in this series.)

By Amy Gahran

Right now, how do people in your community get a quick overview of current local civic issues, and how to get involved?

Chances are they’ll have to spend time searching for and reading back through the right section of one or more poorly designed/written local government web sites. Plus, they might search Google and local blogs and news sites for local transit coverage—probably with scattershot results. image

That’s a lot of work—enough work that most people would probably find it far more appealing to remain mostly uninformed and disengaged.

Strengthening local community and democracy can be good for the news business—if you do both in a way that plays nice with search engines. Topic pages are an effective strategy for attracting search engine traffic (which is why Wikipedia ends up at the top of search results for almost any topic).

What if local news sites published local civic topic pages? These would be not just about big or ongoing news stories, but about local civic organizations and processes, or perennial issues (such a local elections or municipal budgets).

Over time, this strategy might attract more local traffic via search engines. This could help news organizations better serve local communities, local advertisers, and their own bottom line.

A topic page is, in part, a more structured approach to providing information. Kevin Sablan explains that a topic page “typically contains a brief textual and visual synopsis of one topic (e.g. a person, issue or company) along with links to other articles, blog posts, pictures, video. etc.” More from Steve Yelvington on the value of topic pages for news sites.

Several national news outlets have introduced topic pages as a strategy to draw search traffic—including the New York Times, Huffington Post, and USAtoday. Even the Associated Press is hatching a topic page strategy (despite that earlier this year they complained loudly about search engines and news aggregators).

This year there’s been considerable saber rattling in the online news biz over the role of search engines and news aggregators. Steve Yelvington argues that nonlocal, search-driven traffic may not really help the bottom line of sites that publish community news. He may have a point, but: Topic pages on local civic topics (not just big local news that might also attract national attention) could attract more local traffic through search engines—the kind of traffic local advertisers value most.

According to the Knight Commission report, communities need easy access to civic and social information: “People need to know their rights and how to exercise them. They need to know how well public officials and institutions function. They need the underlying facts and informed analysis about the social, economic, political, and cultural factors that shape the community’s challenges and opportunities. They need news.”

Several regional or local news outlets already aggregate headlines, background, and context on their big or ongoing stories into landing pages like this factory closing page from InsideBayArea.com. Staff web producers create these pages manually, but new relevant stories get added automatically when they include appropriate keywords or tags.

If your news org is already doing something similar, here’s how you could experiment with applying this approach to a civic institution (such as city council or public health department) or a civic process (such as local elections or long-term municipal planning).

ACTION STEPS

Start with the low-hanging fruit. Consider which civic institutions or processes your news org already covers regularly. City council, the police department, and school board are likely candidates—as are local elections and economic development programs. Also, ask local reference librarians at the public library which local civic issues people ask about most.

From this, select your initial target topic. For instance, if property taxes are a perennial topic of local debate and confusion, you might create a topic page on the County Assessor.

Write a brief synopsis, just 1-3 paragraphs. Cover the bare basics of what the target institution or process does, and its community significance. Include a bullet list of key current or past issues or controversies involving your target (such as corruption scandals, major initiatives, etc.)

If a local grassroots civic wiki exists, contact its operators and ask whether you can republish some of their content on your topic page—with credit and a link.

Search optimization. Make sure your page title and synopsis includes terms that local people might actually search for. For instance, a civic topic page about the Alameda County Assessor’s Office might bear the title: Oakland Property Taxes: Alameda County Assessor.

Enable engagement. Include a resource list of names, titles, and contact info for key relevant officials. Also link to relevant web sites, to encourage direct engagement. (Not just to the home page, but to specifics such as event calendars, instructions or FAQs, etc.) You might also link to relevant associated organizations, such as community or watchdog groups.

Configure your content management system to syndicate to the civic topic page recent headlines that mention or are relevant to your target instituion or process. It’s best to trigger this off of an internal taxonomy such as story tags, but it could be based on keyword searches of the content.

Monitor traffic to the page. Topic pages tend to attract more traffic—and better search ranking—over time. So set up a local civic topic page or two as an experiment, let it run over a few months, and watch what happens. See which search terms bring people to the page, and how much of that traffic is local. Periodically conduct Google searches to see how your page is ranking for desired search terms.

Make someone responsible for updating civic topic pages. For instance, if the local board of education announces plans to renovate several schools, that might warrant a mention in the topic page synopsis. Similarly, a school board election would require an update to the contact list.

Make sure your reporters, editors, and producers know how to tag stories so they show up on relevant topic pages.

Assess your experiment. After about six months, assess whether and how this strategy is working for you. How does your topic page’s search ranking for desired search terms compare to, say, local blogs, organizations, or official sites? How much local v. nonlocal traffic are those pages attracting? Do they get more traffic when there’s relevant breaking news?

Expand, as simply as possible. The more you can template the format of your civic topic pages, simplify their updating, and automate syndication of current news to them, the easier it will be to create more of them. Over time you’ll hone your approach. You’ll also compile a valuable community resource that supports civic engagment while driving the kind of traffic that could help you earn more revenue from local advertisers.

Previously:

Community info building blocks: What do you already have?

Teamwork: Collaborating to build a community dashboard

January 07, 2010

Five trends to track in 2010

The news industry will continue to struggle this year, but we should get some clarity about pay walls, the role of community news start ups, social media, metrics of engagement, and statehouse coverage

Confusion is likely to reign in the news industry for at least another year, but I think we may start to get some clarity on several fronts:


1. Charging for access to content. More news organizations are likely to take start charging for content and I hope those trials give us more clarity on what works and what doesn’t. We know from the Wall Street Journal that a publisher can charge for specialized content that is seen as having high financial value. It also seems likely that a few local news organizations may be able to charge. But there are a lot of If’s for that: If the content is consistently unique (i.e. no competition) and relevant (i.e. performs a service for users), if free boot-strap competition doesn’t enter the market, and if advertisers don’t balk at a reduction in eyeballs looking at their ads. I do not think Rupert Murdoch’s plans to put News Corp content behind a paywall and a search wall are likely to work. But I hope he tries it. Either failure or success produces more clarity for the rest of us.


2. Social media.
I hope more mainstream news organizations will move past merely using social networks to promote their content and tap into rich opportunities to engage users where they live, whether it’s Twitter, Facebook, and to help users navigate local connections. I have consulted with a couple of major news organizations that are looking to take on a role as community aggregater or news hub, and I am eager to see their projects unfold this year. As well, Knight Foundation is funding J-Lab’s Networked Journalism Project, which partners five established news organizations with local and neighborhood news sites. Meanwhile, Gov 2.0 may pick up some of the slack in informing citizens left by newsroom cutbacks.


3. Metrics.
Increased sophistication about social media may also prompt local news organizations to shift from worship at the Church of Search Engine Optimization, which brings eyeballs from around the globe, to fashioning themselves primarily as networks that engage and serve local users - the ones most of their advertisers really want to reach. Not to say SEO is a bad thing. But as a primary emphasis it seems to get in the way of doing the hard work of really connecting with local users. A shift will require a new way to measure connections with and relevance to users rather than relying primarily on counting unique visitors.


4. Local news startups.
The media landscape is dotted with neighborhood and community news sites. Some, like West Seattle Blog, are demonstrating that user loyalty and a focus on highly local advertising, add up to a modest business model. Others, like Oakland Local, demonstrate the power of community building, social media expertise and tech savvy. In 2010, we’ll get a clearer picture of the capacity and sustainability of these more sophisticated yet lean start ups.

5. Statehouse reporting.
This very significant victim of newsroom cutbacks—particularly sharp among large metros and state newspapers that have traditionally staffed state capitol bureaus—has not escaped the attention of foundations in several states and we’ll soon see more funding commitments. Texas Tribune is leading the way, with a professional staff and grants from Houston Endowment and the Knight Foundation. The just launched California Watch also has foundation support. Perhaps foundation funding is only a temporary solution but it will help keep statehouses honest for the time being.

What trends do you think we should be tracking this year? Please add your thoughts in the comments. Thank you.

 

October 01, 2010

J-Lab report: What local looks like (so far)

Probably no one has been in the field with online local news start ups longer than J-Lab and its New Voices program. So J-Lab’s new report “New Voices: What Works”  tells us a lot about the emerging community news landscape. It also marks a moment to reflect on how much has changed in five years - and how much is still changing. One key finding: “Rarely did (new sites) replace coverage that had vanished from legacy news outlets - or even aspire to. Instead, they very much added news and information where there was none before.”

I am glad J-Lab emphasized that point and I hope the replaceniks among us take note. J-Lab examined the work of 46 projects that were launched with New Voices funding. (In all the program has awarded 55 small start up grants from a pool of 1,433 applicants since 2005.)

This program was designed to foster experimentation and innovation by funding pioneers heading across an online news frontier. New Voices projects do news, but they have community at the core.

For example, NewCastleNow started as a way to shed light and provoke debate about actions of the local school board that did not seem to be in the best interest of the community. Appalachian Independent sought to provide alternative voices in a community dominated by a conservative newspaper.  Green Jobs Philly created an action-oriented site aimed at helping people connect with resources and opportunities in a green environment. Oakland Local sees itself as a capacity-builder in the community as well as a news provider.

The report notes some hard-learned lessons from the field: Notably, the high churn of citizen content contributors and the woeful lack of revenue models for most of these sites. It also says that a two-year, $25,000 grant from New Voices can help a civic minded publisher get a site up and running but it is simply not enough to bring in business expertise to create revenue or other funding streams.

The community news landscape has changed dramatically in the six years since J-Lab began the initiative.  It started a time when would-be community news publishers new little or less about the challenges of effective online engagement and the sand traps of Web development 1.0 and newspaper layoffs on any scale were unthinkable.

Today, journalists displaced from legacy news organizations are moving into online community journalism, often as publisher/entrepreneurs or as employees of startups. Other new players are getting involved in news and information, including Government 2.0 advocates and tech developers, accountability advocates such as the Sunlight Foundation, community foundations and other funders. Technology is more accessible and easy to use while experience has tempered belief that “citizen journalism” will play a major role in most news sites.

Sustainability - whether as a for-profit or not for profit - is the new frontier.

So now what? I would like to see two things happen:

1. Communities of practice need to be form to share a significant amount of learning that online community publishers and supporting organizations have produced in the past decade. Block by Block last week was one effort on my part to help that happen and discussions are continuing about how to create a more permanent network.

2. Online publishers - the citizens and the journalists - need to think about multiple revenue streams even before they launch. They may not start selling or collecting right away, but they need to have realistic plans in front of them.

I question whether these sites can become sustainable without significant business expertise (either a partner or a coach) on board from the outset. Money means multiple revenue streams. Serial grants are not going to be there and publishers who see them as a significant source of money are simply going to invent another “churn.”

Some online community and neighborhood publishers - Howard Owens at The Batavian, Cory and Kate Bergman at My Ballard (and a growing network of neighborhood sites), for example - are doing the hard work of making money and they offer examples for others joining the field.

(Disclosure: I work as a consultant to the Knight Foundation, which is a major funder of J-Lab and New Voices,  and I recently served on the evaluation team for J-Lab’s grant renewal by Knight.)

March 04, 2011

Turning local news into a service business

Increasingly, it looks like relying too heavily on advertising isn’t such a good long-term prospect for established daily local news organizations. So what’s next?

It’s always been easier and more lucrative for news organizations to sell services (primarily advertising) than content. Some new research from Pew, and the new Community Information Toolkit from the Knight Foundation, might point the way to new types of services that news organizations might help create and sell. But this would require a radical rethinking of what the local news business means…

By Amy Gahran

In his Feb. 27 post, The Publisher’s Dilemma, media consultant Frédéric Filloux offered a sobering analysis of the revenue prospects for online and print advertising for the Washington Post—and he pointed to the general challenge of running an ad-based daily print business in the digital age. Toward the end, he noted:

“As the failure of advertising-based models sinks in, the paid-for model is gaining traction. It is not likely to work on the web but it is finding its way on mobile devices where payment is (slightly) more natural and easier to implement.”

The question is, what kind of news would mobile users pay for? Paywalls have been an almost-total failure for general-interest news, especially at the local level. And while the jury’s still out on paid news apps for smartphones and tablets, or subscription-based offerings such as News Corp’s iPad-only The Daily, I’m skeptical of their revenue potential.

Meanwhile, newer ventures have taken a different approach to providing local news and context: rather than paying journalists to report and write news stories, they automatically collect and present geographically relevant local public data (example: Everyblock), or they aggregate local headlines, blog posts, and social media updates (examples: Outside.in and Fwix).

Today, a ReadWriteWeb post is pretty down on tech-based local info services—calling them “lightweight” and “uninspired.” I think that’s a matter of taste. Also, compared to mainstream news venues, the far shorter history of tech-based local ventures is amply peppered with premature obituaries.

But against this backdrop, this week in Miami, at its Media Learning Seminar, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation announced the first draft of the Knight Commission’s Community Information Toolkit.

This document outlines how community members can assess the quality and availability of local information, build an information scorecard against which they can benchmark progress, and create an action plan to improve local information and civic engagement. This process seems to have more in common with how services like Everyblock work than with how news organizations have traditionally functioned—although it isn’t quite like either.

Also this week, the Pew Internet Project debuted a new report, How the Public Perceives Community Information Systems. Here are a few of the report’s findings that should interest news organizations:

  • Print and broadcast news organizations still get the highest marks for being people’s most important source of local information.
  • “Those who are avid news consumers are more likely than others to be civically active.”
  • “Broadband users and library patrons are more likely than others to feel good about their ability to gather information to meet their needs. Those who have found helpful government information online feel better than others about their own ability to make their communities better.”
  • “Broadband users are sometimes less satisfied than others with community life. That raises the possibility that upgrades in a local information system might produce more critical, activist citizens.”


In addition, Pew noted: “Many of the local leaders who attended community workshops for this research initiative argued there was another variable that mattered in understanding the effectiveness of local information systems. That variable related to the flow of information—to citizens’ capacities to search for, aggregate, process, and act on information that is relevant to their needs. The community leaders reported that it was often the case that their stakeholders were not aware of the most useful information in the community and not certain how to act effectively on the information they did have. They also noted there were times when local governments were not effectively communicating to residents what information was available.”

To me, that sounds like a market opportunity—especially if you have a strong brand in a community.

All of this got me thinking: News organizations often are the major trusted brand for community information, and in many cities the local governments and agencies are not doing a stellar job of making local information available and useful (what we call in Oakland, CA, for instance: “Government 0.0”). So maybe there might be room for local news organizations to focus less on stories and ads, and more on making information useful, relevant, findable, and actionable through services for the mobile devices almost everyone has in their hands right now.

These services could be delivered on the freemium model—basic info for everyone, and more specialized premium services targeted at people who are especially engaged on local issues. The goal would be to help people understand what they need to do to help their communities. This is a natural fit for mobile media, which people approach with a generally active mindset.

Would this model support a newsroom of hundreds in big office buildings, as in the golden days of the daily news business? Certainly not. But if you weren’t paying for daily (or any) print or broadcast production, that could make better economic sense—and better serve communities. And if people came to see these trusted brands as active, useful partners in their efforts to improve thei communities (rather than detached observers), then they might be willing to pay for these services.

This requires a radical change of mindset. Honestly, I don’t think most news organizations could manage that. But some might.

The News Leadership 3.0 blog is made possible by a grant to USC Annenberg from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

September 13, 2011

Patch by the numbers 2: Advertising

By Anna Tarkov
When it comes to advertising, the four Patch sites I reviewed in August all relied heavily on national advertising, while three were also attracting a significant amount of local ads. Patch local business directories also figure in the revenue mix.

Last week we took a look at Patch’s content and audience engagement. Now it’s time to talk turkey, as the old expression goes. In other words, show us the money. After all, content and everything else will be for naught if Patch can’t financially sustain itself. Since Patch content is online only and is free to read for all visitors, revenue comes solely from advertising. Though, as we’ll see, that can take different forms.

image

As with content, my approach was to take note of the ads that appeared on portions of four different Patch sites. A California site (Hermosa Beach; launched 3/8/2010), a New York site (Rye; launched 12/22/2009), Florida site (Brandon, launched 12/15/2010) and a Midwest site (Northbrook; launched 9/9/2010).  (Note: I reside in Northbrook.)

I defined “Local” as an advertiser actually in the town that the Patch site covers; “Metro” as an advertiser a nearby town or in the general metropolitan area. National advertisers are national companies. Patch includes house ads promoting advertising on Patch or Patch daily deals. (More on methodology at the end of this post.)

It’s important to note that this was a scan of only four Patch sites out of a network of 861. So draw your conclusions if you must, but do it carefully.

What does Patch offer advertisers?

At first glance, when looking at a Patch site page like this one, it might seem like display ads are the only thing on the menu for advertisers. After talking to Patch President Warren Webster, I discovered that Patch offers more.

Most of the other products have to do with the directory of local businesses, schools and other neighborhood spots that each Patch site has. With its obvious importance to the bottom line, the directory is prominently featured as one of the top level categories on each site (here’s an example).

Webster billed these directories as a vital resource for the community as well as to area businesses. He also stressed that they aren’t purchased from a third party, but hand-built. Webster said that every business or place listed has been visited in person by a Patch staffer and all information such as hours, parking, etc. has been verified. Photos of the business are also taken and in the end, it looks something like this.

Patch hopes to make money on these directories by having businesses claim the listings Patch has created for them. Claiming one’s listing doesn’t technically cost anything. But once a business claims its listing, Patch will pitch the idea of producing a video commercial to appear in the listing like this one, putting the listing on different areas of the site, adding a message from the owner, being added to the Patch directories of neighboring towns and very likely buying display advertising. For many of these local businesses, it will be their first foray into having a web presence and that’s just what Patch is banking on.

How is the sales operation faring?

As with traffic stats, Patch will not release numbers on how it is faring in selling their various ad products or how much they are charging for them. A leaked ad rate card appeared in July, but a Patch spokesperson would neither confirm nor deny its accuracy.

Webster predictably dismissed the disgruntled Patch salesperson who is quoted in the link above. “It’s easy to dig up the people who aren’t happy or they weren’t the right fit,” he said. He went on to add that he considers the person an outlier within the Patch sales organization and not representative of other employees. In other communications with Patch spokespeople, it was hinted to me that the person had already been slated to be fired. Again, there is no way to confirm or deny this claim.

I tried to get a sense of the general satisfaction of Patch sales staff by asking Webster what the degree of turnover is among sales reps. He asserted that it is on par with every other sales organization he has seen and that as it naturally happens, some people are a good fit while others are not. Nevertheless, he seemed to acknowledge possible challenges by citing Patch’s fast pace of growth over the course of the last year. While Webster didn’t link this directly to any specific problems, it’s not difficult to imagine that it may be difficult to effectively oversee an ever growing sales staff.

So how many people are we talking about?  The ad sales arm of Patch employs nearly 300 people. Each individual sales rep is responsible for covering a cluster of sites based on things like population and number of businesses in the area. That means the number of sites per sales rep can somewhat vary, but Webster said it ends up being 3-4 sites on average.

Are advertisers happy?

Answering this question is almost as difficult as trying to determine whether Patch is making money on its ad sales.

Advertisers haven’t been extensively sought out for comment so there are few independent accounts to go on. Business Insider cited one Patch advertiser who hadn’t yet seen big gains in his business, but was optimistic.

Meanwhile, optimism is available in abundance on Patch Sales’ YouTube channel, which features video after video of blissfully happy advertisers. All of them state that their business is up as a result of advertising on Patch.  It’s a convenient echoing of what Webster said when we spoke. “Our goal is to get customers in the door,” he stated and according to these video testimonials at least, it’s happening. How many current or former Patch advertisers might not share this view? There’s obviously no YouTube channel for that.

What there seems to be no doubt about is Patch’s dedication to advertisers and local businesses in general. Sure, readers need to be happy too, but it’s clear no one is forgetting who foots the bill. “We want to make the community stronger and we see businesses as a crucial part of that,” Webster explained. He then took it a step further when discussing whether Patch is developing long-term relationships with advertisers and spelled out the commitment to businesses in no uncertain terms: “We see the advertisers’ info as being just as important as the news.”

Truly local?

Some of the criticism laid at Patch’s feet has been that its sites aren’t truly local; that they are “local lite” if you will. For instance, a group of independent online local news publishers call themselves Authentically Local; the implication of course is that companies like Patch are neither one nor the other.

Where ads are concerned, independent publishers like Howard Owens (whose site is listed on Authentically Local as one of the founders) have stressed that they must be local and local only:

“Do you accept only locally owned businesses as advertisers? If you don’t, you should. You should make it part of your publicly known mission that your goal is to help locally owned businesses grow….  If your site currently has ad network ads, including Google AdWords, you need to remove that code from you site right now.  If you’re going to be beat Patch, you need to be all about local and only local.  And beat that drum as loudly and as often as you can.”

With that in mind, I asked Webster whether Patch was striving for a certain amount of local versus national ads on its sites. The answer seemed to be yes and no. “We don’t have a specific mix in mind, but we ideally want half or the majority of our advertising to come from the local community,” he said.

Looking at the four sites I surveyed, we can see that this goal is somewhat being met. If we only look at the local ad percentages (again, they are 0%, 20%, 34% and 43%) then the 50% mark certainly looks distant. However, if we consider both local and metro ads to be “local,” then the picture improves a bit and we would now see percentages of 41%, 56% and 49% on the three sites that have local ads (Note: I am uncertain why I saw no local ads on the Hermosa Beach site as its launch date is not the earliest of the four. There could of course be any number of explanations.)

By the way, I did ask Webster if he was aware of Authentically Local and how he felt about independent news sites in general.

Taking a conciliatory tone, Webster said that Patch didn’t begrudge any of their companions in the local news space. “We want them to succeed,” he went as far as to say, though it’s unclear whether Patch’s definition of success would match that of the indie site operators’.  “We look at everyone trying to solve this [local] problem as a partner. We may just be taking a different approach. We believe that we can serve our markets better by having a large organization behind it while still having the site run by an editor who lives and works in the town. I think there’s room for all of us to help figure out what the model will eventually be that works for local news.”

Independent publishers weigh in

To get an idea of how the ad numbers I collected looked to people who had experience selling such ads, I turned to some independent publishers.
Mike Fourcher of the Center Square Journal and other community sites in Chicago neighborhoods remarked that the Patch rate card seemed incredibly expensive in comparison with his. He wasn’t sure how Patch’s financial picture would work if the numbers I collected were in line with other Patch sites. For example, Fourcher charges $500 (corrected from $400) per month for his best ad placement, a left sidebar on the front page. The most closely comparable Patch placement runs $1,200 per month, a huge difference indeed.

The aforementioned Howard Owens, publisher of The Batavian, was unsure if the numbers showed any strategic vision on Patch’s part far as ad sales were concerned. “To build an advertising business you need to know what you want to accomplish, which is more than ‘sell a lot of ads’ or ‘become profitable’—those are by-products of solid strategic business goals, not the goals themselves,” Owens said.  He also sharply questioned the selling of national ads alongside local ones and asserted that one is not compatible with the other. “They’re trying to serve two masters—one that is entirely metric driven and another that is much more about relationships and the contextual environment.”

Methodology

As with my earlier post on Patch’s content, I studied ads on the four sites I tracked on four weekdays each in August. I counted ads on the homepage, the other top-level categories that have ads on their main pages (News, Events, Places, Marketplace, Q&A) and also the Local Voices and Announcements sections under the News heading.
Since each viewing of a given page doesn’t necessarily display the same ads each time, I refreshed each page I looked at five times. If an ad appeared on more than one refresh, it was only counted once. However, ads for the same advertiser appearing on more than one category page were counted separately each time.

If you have a question about the methodology or anything else is unclear, please feel free to leave a comment and I’ll be happy to address it.

Previously: Patch by the numbers 1: Content

Anna Tarkov is a blogger and journalist obsessed with media and politics and especially passionate about reforming the news business. Find Anna on her blog and on Twitter.

The News Leadership 3.0 blog is made possible by a grant to USC Annenberg from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

December 14, 2011

Where do people get local business info? Pew report, plus 10 ideas for publishers

The holiday shopping season is generally a revenue-booster for ad-supported news venues—but new Pew research indicates that more people are turning to the internet than newspapers when seeking info about local businesses.

How might this insight help local news publishers update their revenue strategies for the coming year?...

By Amy Gahran

Where people get information about restaurants and other local businesses is a just-published report compiled by Pew’s Project on Excellence in Journalism and the Internet and American Life Project, with support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

A few highlights from the Pew report:

Local restaurants, bars, and clubs. 55% of U.S. adults say they get news and information about local dining and nightlife—and just over half (51%) go online to get this information. In contrast, a total of 31% turn to printed newspapers (26%) and news sites (5%) for this info—even though news venues tend to publish local event calendars, dining/nightlife guides, and annual local “best of” ratings.

“Specialty websites” (probably such as Yelp, although the report does not name any specific sites) are a more popular source of local dining and nightlife info: 38% of adults use them. Furthermore, 23% rely on word of mouth, 8% turn to on local TV, and only 3% use social networking services.

Other local businesses. According to Pew, 60% of adults say they get news and information about local businesses besides restaurants and bars. Here the internet is still the most popular resource, but not quite as popular (47%). Specialty sites (again, think Yelp) are less popular here, cited as a resource by just 16% of adults. And social media is used by only 1%.

For the local general business sector, newspapers are the next most popular resource—29% of people look to printed copies for this info, but only 2% turn to news websites. Word of mouth: 22%. Local TV: 8%. Local radio: 5%.

Demographics. The Pew report contains charts showing the demographics of people who seek each type of local business information. In general, these consumers tend to be wealthier and more upscale.

But there are some differences between the sectors. Pew notes: “The 55% of adults who get information about restaurants, bars, and clubs are more likely to be women, young adults, urban, and technology adopters. The 60% of adults who get information about other local businesses are also more likely to be tech users.”

Local news “junkies” are especially likely to want info about local businesses. According to Pew: “Heavy local news junkies are considerably more likely than others to get material about local restaurants. ...When it comes to restaurant information, 71% of those who used at least six platforms monthly got news and information about local restaurants—compared with 34% of those who relied on just one or two sources.”

Also: “72% of those who used at least six [local news/info] platforms monthly got news and information about [other] local businesses, compared with 39% of those who relied on just one or two sources.”

This kind of data could be a reason for local businesses to advertise in local news venues, compared to search advertising or other marketing.

Mobile has become a leading way for people to get local news and info. This could have profound implications for local advertising.

Pew noted that 47% of U.S. adults get local news and information on their cell phones. “These mobile consumers, who were younger and more upscale in terms of their household income and educational levels, were even more likely than others to get material about local restaurants: 62% of mobile local news consumers got information [about local bars and restaurants], compared with 48% of others.”

Also: “65% of mobile local news consumers got information about other local businesses, compared with 55% of others.”

LESSONS AND IDEAS FOR NEWS VENUES

1. Make local business information easy to find, especially to search for, on your website, in your mobile offerings (mobile site as well as apps) and through your print or broadcast offerings. The staggeringly low number of people who currently turn to news sites for local business information indicates that this info either isn’t there, or it can’t be easily or reliably accessed.

2. Search-friendly repurposing. If you publish a local business directory, “best of” ratings, or an event calendar that lists venues, explore ways to surface this information in general searches of your site. Ideally, each listing could become a basic mobile-friendly landing page. This could be a simple database, and it might be seeded by scraping data from regular search engine queries for local business info. (An upsell service might allow business owners to update or expand their own listings, at will.)

3. Realize who your competition is: paid search ads. SearchEngineLand reported on a recent study which found that paid search drives $6 in local sales for every $1 in online sales. News publishers will have to work hard to demonstrate that their ads can compete with—or at least complement—that performance. So…

4. Create links between your content, ads, and local business info. This could be a key advantage of news publishers, and it should be multidirectional. If you maintain a database of local businesses and events, you might be able to automatically augment each listing with links to stories and upcoming events which mention that business, as well as current ads that business may be running in your site or paper. Then you may be able to adapt your content management system to link stories and ads back to your database listings, making it easier for people to get more info, context, and targeted exposure to advertising.

5. Sell USEFUL local mobile advertising units. Position mobile ads as an actionable information service that adds value, rather than just space to display a banner. Recently SearchEngineLand published a good guide mobile marketing guide for local businesses, as well as an overview of social-local-mobile marketing, and a guide to small business advertising planning for 2012. Read these, and consider how your venue could fit into this picture—from the local advertiser’s perspective.

6. Geocode local business info and ads with latitude/longitude and street address data. This can support “search nearby” functionality, which you can add to your main site search engine, and possibly even support via GPS in mobile devices.

7. Support user bookmarking, sharing, ratings, and comments/tips of local business info on your site. These features can either be a matter of personalization for registered users (visible only to individual users), or a source of additional public content or context for your site. For bookmarking, an option to forward a business name, address, and phone number to your cell phone via SMS text message might be especially useful—especially for the majority of mobile users who still use feature phones.

8. Monitor search requests for local info on your site, and user activity (such as bookmarking, sharing, link clickthroughs, click-to call phone numbers), to spot opportunities to fill in information gaps or meet emerging local market needs. This can be used as feedback to advertisers, or as selling points for prospective advertisers or upsells.

9. Regularly publicize in your print or broadcast channels all the options you offer for finding local business information, and explain how people can use them—and benefit from them. Consider this an ongoing marketing/education effort, and dedicate space and time to it. Don’t just expect people to find these services on their own.

10. If you cannot feasibly build or maintain your own database of local businesses, and connect that to your content management system and ad delivery tool, then consider partnering with (or at least linking to) relevant local business listings in places like Yelp, Google+ brand pages, public Facebook pages, and Bing.

The News Leadership 3.0 blog is made possible by a grant to USC Annenberg from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

The Knight Digital Media Center at USC is a partnership with the Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism. The Center is funded by a grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

April 24, 2012

Why the mobile web is slow, and your mobile site must be FAST!

By Amy Gahran

Take out your cell phone, look at it and count to nine. That’s just slightly less time than it takes the average web page to load on a mobile web browser over a U.S. wireless carrier’s data network. It feels painfully slow. And unfortunately, the widespread rollout of carriers’ faster “4G” networks probably won’t help that situation much.

Which means that if your news or community site isn’t optimized to load very quickly on cell phone web browsers, and be easy and fast for mobile users to navigate, you’re facing a major and growing disadvantage to building your digital audience and business…

For lots of reasons, a mobile-optimized website should form the core of any news or community site’s mobile presence. Even NPR recommends that in order to grow their mobile audience, news sites should focus resources on the mobile web, rather than on building platform-specific mobile apps.

Last week Olga Kharif of Bloomberg reported that “twice as many mobile-phone users abandon a website for reasons such as sluggishness than their desktop counterparts.”

The Bloomberg article was focused mostly on e-commerce sites, which lose sales when mobile users get frustrated and leave. However, the same principle can apply to any type of website.

According to Kharif, the typical webpage currently takes 9.2 seconds to load on a mobile browser over a U.S. carrier’s data network. (Wifi load times are usually faster, but carrier networks are far more ubiquitous than wifi connections.) Also, “Almost half of mobile users are unlikely to return to a website at all if they had trouble accessing it from their phone.”

Kharif reported on new efforts by Google, Microsoft, Akamai Technologies, and other major internet companies to improve mobile web browsers, offer new mobile performance optimization tools for website owners, and to change how some basic internet technologies function.

Google’s goal is to make the overall mobile web experience twice as fast as it is today.

...OK, take out your cell phone again, look at it, and count to four-and-a-half. That’s better—but compared to the desktop experience it still feels a bit long to wait for a webpage to load.

Why is the mobile web so slow? Sometimes it’s a combination of where the mobile user is and how strong or congested the carriers’ network is in that location. But the servers where websites resides, browser technology, and other internet software also play a role in slowing down the mobile web experience, despite faster carrier networks. All of this is beyond the control of web publishers.

But Kharif notes: “Often it’s because the webpage wasn’t designed to load quickly on a wireless device.”

That’s where news and community site owners can take action to turn mobile media to their advantage.

Where’s your mobile site?

Many news and community sites lack a simple mobile-optimized layout. Instead, they display a miniature version of the full website in the mobile browser—which then requires more time and effort to pinch, zoom, and scroll merely to see what’s on the page.

For instance, the Bay Citizen (a nonprofit, well-staffed local news site in the San Francisco Bay Area that has attracted millions of dollars in funding) apparently lacks a mobile-optimized version. Try loading BayCitizen.org in your phone’s web browser and see what happens. (Note: On Apr. 25 The Bay Citizen tweeted: “We’re working on a mobile site as we speak!” Stay tuned.)

For contrast, try loading MinnPost.com (a smaller nonprofit news site) in your phone’s browser. That’s how a mobile-optimized site can look and perform. See the difference?

I’ve heard some smaller digital news publishers say they don’t offer a mobile-optimized layout for revenue reasons: the ads they run on their full site won’t display well or at all in a single-column layout on a small touchscreen.

Meanwhile, I’ve noticed that the mobile versions of mainstream daily news sites often offer few ads, and these are generally supplied through mobile ad networks—which typically provide relatively lower quality, less relevant ads and less revenue per ad. This, combined with a “shovelware” approach to the mobile web (which replicates the worst digital missteps of the news business from the 1990s), signals to users and advertisers alike that the mobile site is a less-valued, lower-priority product.

That’s just plain bad for business.

However, since mobile devices are fast becoming the most common way for people to access the internet in the U.S., failing to figure out how to place and sell relevant mobile-optimized ads because you believe this might undercut the ads on your desktop site seems shortsighted, to say the least.

So far, many news publishers have developed mobile apps which deliver ads as well as content. Since apps store many design elements on the phone, they have to download relatively less data each time they’re used compared to a mobile webpage. So news venue apps often perform faster and display ads and content more uniformly and reliably than the mobile web.

...Which is really nice—except that apps don’t always support inbound links that people encounter on search engines, around the web, in social media, or in e-mails or text messages. Plus you need to build and maintain separate versions of your app for each mobile platform (Apple’s iOS, Android, etc.). And finally users must download, install, and remember to launch your app. (According to research by Localytics, over 75% of mobile apps don’t get used more than 10 times.)

So until typical U.S. mobile web pageload times improve substantially, the best strategy to grow your digital audience and build your business is to offer a mobile-optimized version of your website. Today.

How to make your site mobile-friendly and fast

This can be accomplished by offering a separate mobile layout (“theme”) that gets served when a mobile visitor is detected by your server—you can use cookies to give individuals the option to display the full site on return visits if they prefer.

Or, if you’re building a new site or doing a total site redesign, you might adopt more advanced web design strategies—notably responsive web design, which reflows and changes dynamically to best suit the type of device a user happens to have, from a large computer monitor to a tiny mobile web browser.

Smaller and newer sites often have an advantage on this front—their websites typically rely on newer content management system technology that makes it easier to deploy mobile themes and responsive design.

Regardless of how you deploy your mobile web presence, if your site is ad supported it’s crucial to learn about, and to educate your advertisers about, mobile advertising. The Mobile Marketing Association has compiled detailed, useful mobile advertising guidelines.

Eventually mobile web speeds will catch up with the desktop web experience—but when? Lelah Manz, chief strategist for e-commerce at Akamai, told Bloomberg this could happen by 2014.

That might be true for the average e-commerce site focused on direct sales, since they have the strongest motivation to optimize. But for content-focused sites, including news and community sites, I’ll bet mobile users will still be waiting, and waiting, and waiting, for a while past that.

Which means that publishers who start taking their mobile web performance seriously right now have a window of opportunity to gain a competitive advantage not only with the fastest-growing part of the digital audience, but also with advertisers.

The News Leadership 3.0 blog is made possible by a grant to USC Annenberg from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

The Knight Digital Media Center at USC is a partnership with the Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism. The Center is funded by a grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

May 22, 2012

10-step mobile strategy for community publishers

By Amy Gahran

Last weekend [email protected] held an invitation-only workshop on mobile strategy for community and ethnic media at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. The attendees included many top editorial, business, and digital managers for large and small publishers in the NYC metro area.

At this workshop I suggested 10 steps these publishers could take to start developing a viable, revenue-producing mobile strategy right now, even with modest resources. Here’s the plan…

1. Start using your phone for everything. Many people in the news business aren’t yet fully accomplished at using their own phones as everyday tools to access media, services, and interaction. Without this personal experience, it’s hard to recognize mobile opportunities and develop well-targeted mobile offerings.

So stretch beyond your comfort zone. For a few days or a week, try relying solely on your phone for media, news, information, entertainment, social media, services (like banking, shopping or getting directions) and interaction (texting, instant messaging, photo messages, e-mail, etc.). See how much you can do—and learn what you don’t already know.

2. Make your website mobile-friendly. For most cell phone users, a full website loaded in a small phone browser is a big hassle. If you’re standing on the street or sitting on a crowded bus, too much pinching, zooming, and scrolling are serious obstacles.

So create a fast-loading, simplified version of your site that automatically displays for cell phone visitors. Read Luke Wroblewski’s book Mobile First for advice on what works well with mobile web and app design and usability.

Your mobile-friendly site should be the core of your mobile strategy, since inbound links to any page of your site should load on any device, and most of what you do via mobile channels will ultimately drive traffic to your website.

Integrate mobile-friendly advertising into your mobile web layout. Ads displayed on your mobile site should link to mobile-optimized sites or landing pages. Educate your advertisers, offer analytics, and help the advertiser create ads and link destinations that will work well for your mobile audience.

Make sure your have a mobile-friendly website even if you offer one or more apps for smartphone platforms. The web is not a walled garden—it doesn’t require mobile users to download, install, and remember to launch anything. It’s inherently cross-platform. And many news venue-specific apps don’t automatically launch when a the user clicks a link to one of your stories received via, say, text or e-mail. You want your inbound links to always, always work.

Most likely for now you’ll have to implement “auto detection” code on your web servers to serve mobile users your mobile-friendly page layout. But if you’re starting from scratch with a new site, or when you do a complete overhaul of your current site,  incorporating responsive web design principles is a more elegant and robust solution that could simplify your future needs and increase your mobile options.

Some third-party services like MoFuse will repackage your content in a mobile-optimized template for a monthly fee, and run their own network ads in a revenue-sharing arrangement. That’s also a viable initial strategy, but probably not your most lucrative long-range plan.

3. Start experimenting with Tumblr. This free social blogging platform is highly popular—but more importantly it’s directly accessible via the web and extremely mobile-friendly. Tumblr can be your mobile sandbox and much more.

If at this point it’s beyond your means to implement a mobile theme with auto-detection for your main website, then you can use Tumblr to build a mobile-friendly web presence which complements your main site. For instance, you can post to your Tumblr blog “teasers” which promote and link to your most important or compelling content—then promote links to those Tumblr teasers via social media. The vast majority of people who use social media access it regularly on a mobile device, so you probably already have a large mobile audience in social media.

Tumblr is also a great venue to highlight individual photos, videos, or other multimedia that you’ve published. And it’s a great place to engage people with tidbits from your “cutting room floor,” or to share content created by your community.

And even if you already have mobile-friendly website, you can set up special Tumblr blogs for special projects or campaigns, including crowdsourcing.

4. Consider mobile users in your editorial style. Mobile users often are accessing content a few moments at a time, so they need context. Work to emphasize context and action in your content. One contextual editorial strategy is to begin each story with 2-3 short bullet-point highlights at top of each story, instead of a traditional “deck” and before a traditional story-style lede.

Include action-oriented links wherever possible, which allow mobile users to do useful things like register for an event. Also, where appropriate include full street addresses, e-mail addresses, and phone numbers in your content—these become actionable (clickable) links on mobile devices.

And if possible, adapt your content management system to allow you to geocode your content by specifying latitude/longitude coordinates. The major search engines weight this in providing search results to mobile users, so geocoding will increase your mobile search visibility.

5. Use social media for community engagement. Again, this is where you probably already have a considerable mobile audience. Make sure when you post links to Twitter, Facebook, etc., the destination of those links are mobile-friendly whenever possible. Not sure? Look up the link first on your phone to check.

Use social media on your phone when out and about as a radar screen for a large part of your community, and to share engaging observations and photos from around town. If you use popular mobile-only services like Instagram, or geo-social services like Foursquare, make sure you connect them to your other social media accounts so you can selectively cross-post easily as warranted.

Video links are hugely popular on social media. So if you post video, set up a branded YouTube channel and post your video there—then link to your YouTube videos from social media. YouTube is probably the most mobile-friendly video sharing service online, and it’s owned by Google. Posting your video on YouTube makes it both very findable and very mobile friendly.

6. Conduct periodic mobile market research. Mobile changes fast, and each community has unique preferences. Knowing what’s currently popular in your community regarding mobile devices, cost considerations, and other preferences will steer your decisions for further mobile offerings.

I’ve created a simple mobile market research survey. This can be conducted in person (you’ll want to see how people use their phones) every 6-12 months. Even a couple dozen responses from typical community members can provide actionable guidance.

Also, the mobile user experience is only as good as the quality of local wireless service. If a locally popular carrier’s service suddenly degrades (which can happen), your mobile offerings might perform poorly. So periodically check Rootmetrics.com’s maps for your community to understand current coverage conditions. Is there poor or spotty data coverage? Then take it easy on the video! Or if large numbers of your users sign up for 4G service and local coverage is good, consider richer mobile media offerings.

7. Offer text alerts and polls. SMS text messaging is a huge overlooked opportunity, but it’s valuable because it’s ubiquitous: it works on almost any mobile phone. Text alerts are obviously useful to share breaking news, event reminders, and even offer interactive services like polling.

Your text offerings can be either general or special-purpose. Just make sure users know exactly what to expect from each service. It’s best to only send 1-2 messages per week or less, and never spam people! Users must opt-in to each service individually, and they must be able to unsubscribe immediately simply by replying “stop.”

You must use a common shortcode to offer any text-message services. That’s not free, but using a shared shortcode from a vendor like TextMarks can cut your costs substantially compared to leasing a dedicated shortcode. That’s a good way to start.

Text alerts can include links, so make sure you’re using these links to drive traffic to specific mobile-friendly story pages (not to your home page) or to mobile-friendly advertiser landing pages.

8. Experiment with apps. After you have a mobile-friendly web presence, you’re considering mobile users in your editorial style and social media activities, and you’re offering some text messaging options, that’s the time to consider investing resources in apps intended to run on specific mobile platforms like Android or the iPhone.

The easiest way to get started with apps is to use a service that simply repackages your existing content within an app, “shovelware” style. Uppsite is one service that will create apps for you on all major platforms, and run network ads. That might be a good first step to experiment, get some data about your mobile users, and earn a little revenue.

However, in the big picture, content shovelware does not make a compelling app. Only 25% of apps get opened more than nine times. So if you intend to invest resources in developing an app, it’s better to look for opportunities to offer services, not just content, through apps.

Your mobile apps can be project-specific, such as presenting a data visualization, supporting a crowdsourcing effort, or providing special updates or context on a crucial community issue.

Usually when people say “mobile apps” they mean “native” apps which are software deployed for a specific mobile platform. But with the advent of better mobile browsers and more advanced web technology, it’s now possible to deliver a great deal of app-like functionality via the web. The advantage of “web apps” is that the user doesn’t need to download or run any software. One example of a mobile-friendly web app is ProPublica’s Dialysis Facility Tracker.

Developing platform-specific native apps cost more, so only build an app when it’s truly warranted: to use special device capabilities (like the camera or accelerometer) or if you have a very good revenue case. In particular, many publishers are lured by iPad apps because they look pretty and appear to return to publishers the control over users they thought they once had. But iPad apps have proven to be a dubious investment for news or content publishers.

9. Sell mobile landing pages or microsites, not just banner ads. Position access to your mobile audience as a premium service that can deliver more value to advertisers more value.

Use mobile landing page tools such as Landr.co or MoBistro to create compelling, actionable mobile microsites for your advertisers—for longer-term, bigger contracts than simply displaying a tiny banner that would likely perform poorly. You can get great analytics from these microsites, and adjust them on the fly to improve performance.

The key is that your ad sales staff must really know how to sell this service, build a basic microsite, and keep it updated with current advertiser info.

Once you have some advertiser microsites, you can promote links them not just via ad banners, but via your other mobile or social media offerings

10. Mobile doesn’t stand alone. Always promote and explain your mobile offerings in your print/broadcast venues, house ads and at events.

Prepare printed, online, and sometimes video tutorials explaining each offering: what is is, what value it offers to whom, how to use it. Create versions for community members and advertisers or partners.

And in general, train your community in how their phones can be useful tools. Recommend to your useful reporting tools for local issues like SeeClickFix, citizen journalism apps like MePorter, transit info services like NextBus and more.

The more you can encourage your community to get more info and value from their phones, the more they will value your mobile offerings.

More resources from the KDMC/CUNY community mobile media workshop.

 

The News Leadership 3.0 blog is made possible by a grant to USC Annenberg from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

The Knight Digital Media Center at USC is a partnership with the Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism. The Center is funded by a grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

August 15, 2012

Ad rates, events, and crowdfunding: Community news sites get innovative about revenue

By Amy Gahran

Community news is a challenging business; which is why making money is a key theme at next month’s Block by Block Community New Summit. And there’s growing room for optimism: as Groupon’s business model crumbles, more local advertisers may now be smarter and more willing to work with community news venues.

Here’s a roundup of some ways that community news publishers have diversified their revenue streams beyond display ads and grants…

Recently on the Block by Block resource network website, Sally Duros discussed how hyperlocal sites are rethinking their approach to local online advertising.

According to Duros, some hyperlocal sites are changing how they price and position online ads.

For instance, David Boraks, founder and editor of two hyperlocal sites in North Carolina, discussed how his sites simplified their ad value proposition and pricing by selling all ads across the entire site. Previously they’d offered separate rates for section-specific runs such as ads on the front page, the inside page, the health and fitness page, etc.

“We had four dozen ad slots across the site and about as many prices. It just got so complicated,” Boraks told Duros. “Most advertisers wanted to be on the front page.”

Now Davidson.net and its sister site Cornelius.net sell ads by size and page position, not by section. According to their media kit, “Ads run on every page of the site and will rotate within like ad slots. A minimum of 30,000 impressions guaranteed per month.”

Boraks said their ad are prices are determined by working backward from how much revenue the site needs to earn each month, in order to meet operational expenses. “If we sell 60% of ads on the site then we are at break even. Everything above that is profit and below that we are in the red a little bit,” he told Duros.

Duros also discussed how the Connecticut-based site CTNewsJunkie is taking a different approach, by offering advertisers more premium options—including site takeover, a “big block” 300600 banner slot, geotargeted ads, and exclusive advertising in their e-mail blasts. But like Davidson.net, they also sell ads on a run-of-site basis.

Meanwhile, Nieman Journalism Lab recently covered how Technically Philly (a news startup covering the Philadelphia tech and startup scene) is earning substantial revenue from events and other elements in a diverse revenue strategy:

Technically Philly’s flagship event is Philly Tech Week, an eight-day conference that’s free for tech companies to participate, and for attendees. According to Nieman Journalism Lab, all revenue comes from event sponsors. In April 2012, the second Philly Tech Week drew more than 10,000 attendees—more than double the inaugural 2011 conference.

Technically Philly cofounder Brian Kirk told Nieman that he estimates this year about 40% of their revenue pie will come from events. Consulting will supply a further 40%. And advertising and grants will supply only about 10% each. In contrast, in 2011 events delivered only about 12% of Technically Philly’s revenue.

Technically Philly also partners with local institutions and organizations for this conference, such as Temple University’s new Center for Public Interest Journalism, the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania, and the Science Center (which provides lab and office space for local businesses). Several partners provided venues for conference events and other services, in addition to funding.

Technically Philly is a niche site with a geographic slant, which may position it better than more typical hyperlocal community news sites in terms of running events. However, community news publishers might consider partnering with local niche news sites on events. In most cases there’s probably enough common interests and potential mutual benefits to make it worth trying.

Crowdfunding for specific hyperlocal coverage has received mixed results, but it can be a revenue stream worth pursuing. For example, Charlottesville Tomorrow recently ran a successful Kickstarter campaign which slightly exceeded its goal to raise $7000 to fund development of 3D online models to help local residents understand the implications and impact of a planned major highway project.

But crowdfunding isn’t easy. Homicide Watch DC is a community news site that decided to turn to Kickstarter to fund a one-year student reporting lab. Editor Laura Amico recently explained on the Block-by-Block Facebook page what this sort of effort requires:

“It took us about six weeks to get from ‘let’s pitch on Kickstarter’ to having a pitch up. I think it’s a much longer, more involved process than many people realize,” she said. “It took us several rounds of edits (on rewards and the video) to get approval. We tried a Kickstarter campaign to fund our year-in-review package but couldn’t get approval for it, so I went ahead and did the package without funding.

“In short, my advice is this: plan early, plan often, submit early and be prepared to revise. We launched our new campaign at 6:30 p.m. last night and so far have raised $7,581, which is 18% of our goal.”

Mobile: the next revenue frontier. So far few community news sites have experimented with revenue from mobile ads or services, beyond running ads on their mobile sites or apps supplied by networks such as AdMob. There’s ample potential for community publishers to capitalize on the mobile market, and I am currently researching that topic to for my session on mobile monetization in at Block by Block 2012 next month. If you have ideas or examples of mobile revenue options for community publishers, please e-mail me.

The News Leadership 3.0 blog is made possible by a grant to USC Annenberg from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

The Knight Digital Media Center at USC is a partnership with the Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism. The Center is funded by a grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

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