News Leadership 3.0

Posts tagged with: Business Models

April 29, 2010

Government data: People love it, say Pew, Texas Tribune

If you want to increase traffic to your news or community site, stories aren’t enough—put up a searchable government database. That appears to be a key lesson from a new Pew report, and from the Texas Tribune’s recent experience…

This week the Pew Internet and American Life Project published Government Online, a report exploring in depth how Americans are interacting with federal, state, and local government online. In a Future Tense interview, Pew researcher and report author Aaron Smith told American Public Media’s Jon Gordon that researchers were especially surprised to find that 40% of US internet users have gone online for data about the business of government.

By Amy Gahran

“Americans are very interested in engaging with government,” Smith told Gordon. “They’re exploring data about government activities: government spending, tracking the Recovery Act, reading legislation. None of us were expecting that figure to be so large.”

Smith continued, “I think people are just interested in information about things like the stimulus bill, the healthcare bill. But if you can’t access that information easily, it’s hard to get involved. Government is now doing a better job of putting their data online—and more importantly, doing that in ways that lets other organizations take that data and put it together in new and interesting ways.”

One news venue that’s seeing direct benefits from repackaging and publishing government databases is the fledgling Texas Tribune. At a journalism event last weekend in Austin, Texas Tribune to editor Evan Smith mentioned that traffic to their site’s data pages is “about two and a half times the traffic of our narrative journalism pages.” (That’s for all of their narrative journalism, not just selected stories.)

In an e-mail interview yesterday, Smith elaborated: “We’ve put up more than 30 searchable databases on our site thus far (more than one a week), about everything from campaign spending and contributions to government employee salaries; from school rankings to red light camera data. We just added one today featuring all kinds of information on more than 160,000 Texas prison inmates. It’s perhaps our most ambitious database yet. Coming soon: everyone who’s been murdered in Juarez in recent years.

...On a personal note, I was especially intrigued by Pew’s finding that so many people are already exploring online government data, and by the Texas Tribune’s traffic experience, because among my many projects I work with Oakland Local—a community news/views site serving Oakland, CA. In a discussion about the City of Oakland’s general dearth of online transparency (which Oakland Local editor and publisher Susan Mernit has dubbed “Government 0.0”), I mentioned how Oakland Local could push for greater local government transparency. A couple of longtime residents told me not to bother, because “Most people here just aren’t interested in that.” Others disagreed, and said that if local government info was available more easily (or at all), many Oaklanders probably would find it interesting and useful.

In light of those conversations, I asked Smith whether he thought the Texas Tribune’s database traffic might indicate a previously underestimated pent-up public demand for exploring government data.

“If you build it, they will come,” Smith replied. “Most people didn’t know this data was accessible, didn’t know where to get it, didn’t know what to do with it. We did the heavy lifting—and now everyone’s addicted.”

Looking at the bigger picture for the news business, I asked Smith whether he believes their database vs. narrative news traffic statistics might indicates a strong business rationale for news orgs to publish more databases—and perhaps to encourage their readers to lobby more actively for increased access to government data.

“Yes and yes,” said Smith. “This is perhaps the best argument I can think of for more use of (and access to) more data. Data is journalism; journalism is data. It’s truly a brave new world.”

To me, this strongly illustrates why journalism must keep breaking out of the “story box.” Too often, journalists focus almost exclusively on storytelling. However, making it easier for people to access and explore information, to discover their own paths to relevance, often can be more engaging. Also, databases tend to drive more traffic over time than traditional narrative news stories—which helps any news business model.

Finally, databases are experienced more as a service, than as “content”—something to consider when it’s becoming increasingly hard to build a business mainly around publishing content.

July 06, 2010

Wooing more mobile users with interactive databases

Over the Independence Day weekend, USA.gov (a hub for federal government info and resources) relaunched a more user-friendly version of its site. This includes a gallery of free mobile apps based on US government data, news, information, and services.

The interesting thing is, most of these “apps” aren’t really apps at all. They’re not separate programs that run on a smartphone operating system. Rather, they’re special-purpose web sites designed to work well within the limited microbrowsers that come with the vast majority of web-enabled cell phones in user today (feature phones, not smart phones). Examples include Alternative Fuel Locator, Find Your Embassy, and FEMA Mobile. (My list of WAP/platform options for all USA.gov apps so far.)

From the perspective of engaging the largest possible mobile audience, this is a smart strategy—one that news organizations might emulate, especially for data-based interactive features…

Mobile has become a big deal for the news business. Gartner recently predicted that by 2013, mobile phones will overtake computers as the most common web access device worldwide. (This is already true in many parts of the developing world, but the US is likely to catch up soon.)

But so far, most US news organizations appear to be paying the least attention to the biggest part of the mobile news picture. At a time when every news org should be working hard to expand and retain their audience, most are devoting considerable resources on developing and promoting apps for smartphones (especially the iPhone). The problem is, the vast majority of handsets in use in the US are not smartphones, but less expensive, simpler “feature phones” that generally can’t run real apps.

Most major US news sites already offer mobile-friendly sites based on WAP (wireless application protocol) standards. Stripped-down, low-bandwidth WAP sites from news orgs such as CNN, the Denver Post, or ABC News, display fairly well on basic mobile browsers.

Such first-generation WAP news sites are a good first step—the lowest common denominator of mobile web access is a crucial base to cover. However, most WAP news sites typically fail to engage and reward mobile visitors. (This may, in part, explain why relatively few feature phone users frequent news sites so far.)

Here’s the problem: Most US news WAP sites are little more than shovelware: reformatted content that mostly mirrors the structure and purpose of the standard web site. This relatively thoughtless approach requires too much navigation, clicking, and inference to connect mobile users with value.

The main challenge with lean mobile news is not primarily A matter of design/usability, but of editorial approach. The traditional story approach to packaging news (headlines linking to full-text narrative stories) generally serves mobile users poorly.

That’s why the USA.gov mobile “apps” caught my attention.

Most of the USA.gov offerings are designed to help mobile users help themselves (make better choices, take action, find/use services, understand issues). Most of these tools don’t simply present information about government agencies—they make government info current, relevant, explorable and useful.

Increasingly, news organizations that publish interactive databases are finding that these are some of the most popular parts of their site. A good example of this is the Texas Tribune, which reports getting nearly three times as much traffic to its interactive databases compared to its news stories.

There’s some debate over whether interactive databases are “journalism”, but there’s no question that news audiences want, like, and use data-based services. Who cares whether interactive databases are “journalism” as long as they can be used to support the business model for digital news?

If your business model depends on either attracting large numbers of visitors, or keeping people engaged with your content and brand (repeat visits or longer visits), then you might want to consider not just offering interactive online databases, but making them useful to as many mobile users as possible via WAP sites or.

Once you’ve hooked these lean mobile users with fast, relevant information in response to their specific queries or curiosity, then you can deliver to them (also via WAP) links to your most recent relevant stories.

The overall strategy to experiment with here is: Try using mobile-friendly databases to engage visitors and lure them into your stories. Don’t expect your headlines to be sufficient to engage mobile visitors—at least, not the masses who are not using (and who may never use) smartphones.

If you try this experiment, here are some tips:

  • Promote your mobile web interactive features prominently via your print or broadcast channels.
  • Consider also promoting them via radio advertising, which seems to be quite effective for driving mobile traffic.
  • Give your interactive features short, simple URLs that are easy to remember, spell, and type on a cell phone. You don’t necessarily have to use your news org’s domain name; you can register a project-specific domain (like, say, SFcampaignfinance.com). Just make your branding obvious on the WAP pages served.
  • Use auto-detection so mobile users don’t have to remember to type in “m.” or “/mobile” to access the WAP version of your offering.
  • Make it easy for WAP users to share the results of their queries to your database via SMS text messaging, e-mail, and social media.
  • From your WAP database site, offer easy, obvious access to your news site (both full and WAP versions), as well as to the full web version of your database. And despite offering these options, expect some smartphone users to complain noisily that you subjected them to a WAP site. Don’t worry about these inevitable squawks; focus on your overall mobile traffic.
  • Use mobile analytics to monitor mobile web traffic and see how mobile visitors use and share your WAP pages.

There are many other ways to improve your lean mobile offerings, and I’ll be discussing them in future posts. But for now, assume that web shovelware isn’t good enough for this market—and that approach might even undermine your attempts to woo mobile traffic.

Mobile users tend to be action oriented, so giving them something to do (rather than merely read) on your mobile site could get them coming back for more. Right now, simply making any attempt to improve the lean mobile visitor experience is an easy way to stand out to this potentially huge and important audience.

February 02, 2011

Got an iPhone/iPad app? Don’t count on browser-jumping for extra revenue

Today in New York, Rupert Murdoch unveiled The Daily, the first-ever iPad-only newspaper. It’s available via a new one-click iPad subscription mechanism for 99 cents/week, or $39/year. And it displays paid ads. Many in the news business are watching eagerly to see whether this approach provides a viable revenue stream.

Meanwhile, elsewhere in the Appleverse, a controversy is brewing that should concern any publisher who offers content-focused, revenue-producing apps for Apple mobile devices…

By Amy Gahran

On Feb. 1, the New York Times reported on why Apple rejected Sony’s new e-reader app from its app store, which jumped users out of the app and into Sony’s web-based Reader Store to purchase new e-books.

This is the same strategy Amazon has used since the launch of its popular Kindle app to skirt the hefty 30% cut Apple takes from all in-app purchases. In fact, CNN Money wonders whether Apple might crack down on the Kindle app next.

Many iOS app providers view Apple’s move as a bait and switch. For instance, A note on the Sony Reader app page says, in part: “Unfortunately, with little notice, Apple changed the way it enforces its rules and this will prevent the current version of the Reader for iPhone from being available in the app store.”

Here’s Apple’s response, via The Times:

“We have not changed our developer terms or guidelines,” Trudy Muller, an Apple spokeswoman, said Tuesday. “We are now requiring that if an app offers customers the ability to purchase books outside of the app, that the same option is also available to customers from within the app with in-app purchase.”

...So Apple might not be issuing an outright ban on app-jumping, browser-based content purchases (yet). But if you want to offer this feature, your app must also support in-app purchases.

This situation presents a significant issues for content producers, including news organizations with iPhone or iPad apps. For instance:

  • Would publishers have to charge more for in-app purchases, to cover Apple’s cut? If so, consumers probably would just use the cheaper browser option.
  • Might Apple require equal pricing for in-app and browser purchases? This could drastically skew the economics of a publisher’s mobile business model.

The Times indicated why news orgs should care:

This requirement may signal a shift for Apple. The company has made more money selling hardware than music, e-books or apps. If people could have access to more content from more sources on their iPhones and iPads, the thinking went, then they would buy more devices.

The move is also surprising, as Apple has indicated recently that it would be more collaborative, not less, with magazine publishers and other content producers that want more control over how to distribute content on the iPad.

Right now, most news organizations’ mobile apps (for iOS and other platforms) generate revenue from straightforward ad serving and, sometimes, access to premium content—although usually premium content is not actually sold through the app, but merely accessed via an existing subscriber account.

But what if more news organizations wanted to start selling book-like content, and initiating this purchase process via a “buy” button from within an iOS app? The booming popularity of e-book readers means that the e-book market now represents a huge consumer market for news organizations to repackage and sell their content.

For instance, the New York Times recently published Open Secrets, “the definitive chronicle of the WikiLeaks documents’ release and the controversy that ensued.” It’s now sold via all major e-book retailers. But what if the Times decided to also sell it directly in a non-proprietary e-book format (such as .mobi) via a buy button in its iPhone or iPad apps? And what if that buy button jumps users out of the app and into a browser-based shopping cart?

Or what if the news app simply jumped buyers to existing e-bookstores on the web? (Using the publisher’s own affiliate codes to earn a little extra money on the transaction, of course.)

There’s more to this flap. It’s not just about selling content via mobile devices, but also about using apps to access to previously purchased content. Wired explained why (emphasis added):

Apple also allegedly told Sony that the app couldn’t access content purchased on other Sony Reader devices, which is where most of the outrage was focused. ...Apple’s statement indicates that this is indeed the case—sort of. If an app lets users access content that they purchased via Amazon’s website, for example, then that same app must also let users buy the same book via Apple’s own in-app purchase system. If the app developer doesn’t want to use Apple’s in-app purchases to sell content, then the app can’t access content purchased elsewhere either.

News Corp has invested lavishly in The Daily—reportedly spending $30 million, including paying for a staff of 120 and prime office space in downtown Manhattan. Personally, I think this was a mistake for several reasons, including that putting all of The Daily’s eggs in Apple’s basket significantly reduces business flexibility and thus increases risk.

At The Daily’s launch today, Murdoch confirmed that the iPad will probably be only provider for The Daily for this year and next year. Eventually News Corp will develop editions for all tablet platforms, he said. But for now, this is effectively an iPad exclusive.

And while it seems The Daily’s only initial revenue streams are subscriptions (of which Apple is probably taking a cut) and advertising, who’s to say they weren’t also eyeing potential sales of additional content products to help meet their sizeable payroll over the long term?

If Apple is willing to pull a major bait-and-switch for app-related revenue options, it jeopardizes the economics of any venture rooted in iOS apps.

News Corp. might want to accelerate its Android development schedule for The Daily. And other publishers might want to think twice about committing too heavily to a platform which, while popular, also has a track record for suddenly changing its rules for doing business.

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

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.

May 26, 2011

E-books: Emerging revenue option for news publishers

E-books are hot: Amazon recently announced that it’s selling more e-books than print titles. And e-books are now included on the New York Times’ bestseller list. So the time may be right for news organizations to start making serious money on their voluminous archives, by repackaging content as e-books…

By Amy Gahran

So far, most news organizations have eyed e-readers—from the Kindle to the iPad—mainly as distribution channels for periodical subscriptions. But from a usability perspective, this generally is a clumsy match. E-book reader devices and apps are best at displaying, well, e-books. Learning how to roll with this could unlock new revenue opportunities for news orgs.

How might this work? A newspaper that has published several articles on a popular topic (such as a high-profile crime, a natural disaster, or a vibrant music and art scene) could repackage those articles as an e-book. Or if you regularly publish recipes, lifestyle or how-to features, or other “evergreen” content, it might sell in e-book form. And the work of a popular columnist, critic, or editorial cartoonist might also make a good e-book.

For example, Mark Scott Nash, a longtime outdoors writer for the Boulder, Colo. Daily Camera, recently published The Insolent Guide to Northern Colorado Mountains—an e-book that not only includes maps, color photos, and hiking guides, but also “a compilation of essays expressing why we are addicted to the primordial mountain wilderness experience.”  It sells for $9.99 in most e-bookstores.

An e-book can also be a handy way to present the documents supporting a big enterprise reporting project. That’s what the New York Times did with its first-ever e-book, published earlier this year: Open Secrets: Wikileaks, War, and American Diplomacy. Even though this content is available for free online, people are buying it for about $6 online—for the added convenience, portability, and presentation benefits an e-book offers.

I spoke with Dan Pacheco, founder and CEO of Bookbrewer.com, as he was attending Book Expo America in New York City. Bookbrewer evolved from Printcasting, an early Knight News Challenge winner—and it’s carving out a viable niche in the world of digital publishing.

Bookbrewer is a service that allows you to take any text or image content (from an RSS feed, files, or that you can copy and paste) and repackage it in popular e-book formats (mobi and epub), to make it compatible with all popular e-reader devices and apps. You can then create a cover, add front and back matter, and put it on the market. These e-books can be sold through any of the popular digital bookstores (Kindle, Nook, iBook, etc.), or directly by the author/publisher.

Pacheco describes Bookbrewer as a “content curation engine” that works like a blogging tool, “but instead of creating posts, you create a chapter.”

One prominent NY-based business publisher is working with BookBrewer to create a large collection of e-books. “They have a huge archive of investing tip articles. An admin-level person copied that content from their archives, sorted it topically, and created 100 books,” said Pacheco, noting that it took about 15 minutes to create each e-book.

What makes an e-book sell? Pacheco offers these tips:

  • Have a good story flow. Organize your content in a way that flows well, and add bridging text or context where necessary. If you’re packaging articles or columns, group them thematically or chronologically, whichever is more relevant to the topic.
  • Attractive cover design. This is a must. “People really DO judge a book by its cover. If you don’t take your e-book seriously, no one will buy it,” said Pacheco. One easy strategy for a good cover: Go to iStockPhoto, pay $5 for a good relevant image. Then put your title and author name/news brand on it—large. “Thumbnails for e-books are super small, so your title needs to be twice as big as on a printed bookcover.”
  • Promotion and visibility. This is where news organizations have a major advantage over e-book publishers. “Most book publicists would kill to have coverage run in newspapers as soon as their book hits the market. If you are the newspaper, that’s no problem,” said Pacheco. He also advises marketing e-books through social media and other channels that most news organizations are probably already using.


To get started, Pacheco suggests that news orgs might analyze their website search traffic, to see which keywords and topics people are searching for. If you have a lot of content on some of those most popular searches, then you might curate a package of stories and photos and turn it into an e-book.

There are several e-book publishing tools and services available. Bookbrewer is just one option—but it bundles some low-cost distribution service options to help publishers sell their e-books. For 5% of the sales revenue, BookBrewer will distribute your e-book to all major retailers. This can make e-book publishing easier and more effective, for both news orgs and solo content producers. So it might be a good place to start experimenting with this growing secondary content market.

Bookbrewer was the platform that Nash, of the Daily Camera, used to publish his e-book. The Camera granted Nash the rights to publish his Camera guides as an eBook. But other news organizations throwing up obstacles to e-book publishing.

“Last fall, I worked with a well known newspaper columnist who wanted to publish some of his columns as an e-book using Bookbrewer,” said Pacheco. “Sadly, he couldn’t get approval from corporate to publish. They told him it would be a four month process at minimum and that they had to manage it (but did nothing). How messed up is that?”

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

August 18, 2011

How people use cell phones should shape mobile news strategies

If you want to serve a mobile audience, it helps to know how people use their cell phones. A new Pew Internet and American Life report examines mobile phone use, and offers some insights that may be directly and indirectly useful to news publishers…

According to Pew, 83% of U.S. adults own a cell phone of some kind. That’s something over 200 million people nationwide, extrapolating from the latest comScore mobile market statistics.

How can news publishers serve this large audience?...

By Amy Gahran

Be useful—and fast. For mobile users, “news you can use”—especially if published in fact sheets, dashboards, or other formats besides narrative stories—might help attract and retain mobile audiences.

Pew noted: “Cell phones are useful for quick information retrieval—so much so that their absence can cause problems. Half of all adult cell owners (51%) had used their phone at least once to get information they needed right away. One quarter (27%) said that they experienced a situation in the previous month in which they had trouble doing something because they did not have their phone at hand.”

So don’t underestimate the value of non-story-format info such as sports scores, local weather, event listings, resource guides, restaurant reviews and more. For mobile audiences, useful info presented well (and quickly) might be a significant draw.

Also, consider giving users of your mobile web site and apps ways to bookmark specific stories on your site, making them easier to find quickly later on mobile devices. Don’t make them waste time searching again for what they’ve already found. (Searching in mobile sites or apps is generally pretty cumbersome for mobile users.)

Be fun. According to Pew, 42% of all cell owners (including 70% of those 18-29 years old) turn to their phone for entertainment when bored. To capitalize on this, make it easy for mobile users to find your fun content.

This doesn’t mean news orgs should create more “light” or “weird” news, at the expense of serious news. It just means if you make obvious whatever is entertaining about your news, and make it easy to find this content, you’ll probably attract more mobile users.

Also, consider adding fun layers to your news content via contest such as “caption this photo,” news-related games, and more. And, of course, make sure your mobile sites and apps make it easy for mobile users to share your content via social media—something many people consider “fun.”

Offer text messaging services. Pew found that 73% of all cell phone owners send or receive text messages. So offering a variety of opt-in text alerts (both ongoing and special-purpose) can be a vital tool for keeping your news brand on the radar of mobile users.

Accept user-contributed images. Similarly, 73% of mobile users take photos with their cell phones, and 22% have posted photos or videos online from their phone. So consider ways that you might put user-contributed imagery to use. This could be done via MMS (multimedia messaging, available to all types of phones), a mobile-friendly web form, or a feature of your mobile app. This could be part of contests, games, or campaigns.

Serve both smartphones and feature phones

Earlier this year Pew estimated that 35% of U.S. mobile phones currently in use are smartphones. This means that simpler, less costly feature phones still comprise the vast majority of the U.S. mobile market.

Despite the smartphone hype, feature phones probably won’t vanish anytime soon since they’re cheaper to get, and they offer more affordable and flexible carrier plan options. So news organizations should consider both types of mobile users in their offerings.

Smartphone and feature phone users do tend to use their phones differently.

Smartphone apps currently are the primary focus for most news orgs’ mobile strategies. Pew did find that 69% of smartphone users have downloaded apps. But: This means that over 30% of smartphone owners have not downloaded apps. That group probably includes a lot of BlackBerry users (overall a less robust platform for both apps and the mobile web).

Also, Pew found that 84% of smartphone owners (84%) access the Internet from their phones—significantly more than the 69% who download apps.

In contrast, 15% of feature phone users currently get online from their phones. However, going by comScore’s numbers that’s probably somewhere around 20 million feature phone users—a substantial existing audience for the mobile web.

These statistics underscore the core value of the mobile web: this single offering can serve huge numbers of mobile users well, largely irrespective of platform or device type.

So before investing too heavily in app development for specific smartphone or tablet platforms, news organizations probably should first make sure they have a good mobile web site that works for both full and limited mobile browsers. Doing so might grow your share of the feature phone audience well beyond 15%, and attract larger numbers of smartphone users as well (especially via inbound links to your site).

Intriguingly, 4% of feature phone users have downloaded apps. (Yes, most feature phones can and do run simple apps, and popular apps stores like GetJar and Snaptu serve this market.)

Many online publishers interpret small-sounding statistics like this to dismiss the need to offer content in formats friendly to feature phones. However, this seemingly tiny market segment comprises about 6 million people—and it has substantial room to grow. It’s possible that as feature phones continue to get “smarter” this segment of the mobile media landscape will grow to the point that it becomes a more attractive channel for news publishers. So it’s worth keeping an eye on.

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.

May 10, 2012

Mobile for building the ethnic/community news business

By Amy Gahran

Next week the Knight Digital Media Center at USC is partnering with the City University of New York to offer a two-day workshop on mobile strategies and opportunities for ethnic and community media organizations in the New York City area.

One of our instructors, Arturo Duran of Digital First Media, will be explaining how mobile can enhance the business model and community engagement efforts of these news outlets. Here’s a preview of his advice…

Arturo Duran is the Chief Innovation Officer for Digital First Media—a spinoff from Journal Register Co. which last year took over operations management for all MediaNews Group and JRC newspapers. He also was a 2010-11 fellow in the Knight-McCormick Leadership Institute at KDMC. In the upcoming workshop, he’ll discuss the business considerations and opportunities for community and ethnic news outlets that embrace mobile.

Duran has considerable experience on this front. He was part of the team that created AOL Latino in U.S., and also served as CEO of Intermedia Digital (the largest Spanish-language newspaper company in the U.S.). He’s also led digital and mobile initiatives for small and large news outlets, and has even experimented with early augmented reality efforts.

Most ethnic and community news outlets are fairly small and local, but some (such as Little India magazine and China Daily) are quite large—spanning several states, or the nation, or the globe. Outlets from all points alone this spectrum will be represented among the workshop’s participants. What should they keep in mind about mobile?

“We need to stop thinking of what we—people in the media business—want, and listen to what our users are doing,” said Duran. He noted that in the U.S., African Americans, Hispanics, and other ethnic groups tend to be especially advanced in their use of mobile devices.

For instance, recent Nielsen Co. research found that U.S. Hispanics are 28% more likely to own a smartphone than non-Hispanic whites, and they also consume more mobile data than all ethnic groups. U.S. Hispanics also are three times more likely than non-Hispanic whites to have internet access via a mobile device, but not have internet at home. And their average mobile bill is 8% higher than the overall U.S. average.

Similarly, as of last summer Nielsen found that 33% of all African Americans own a smartphone, significantly higher than the national average. Also, 44% of all new mobile phone purchased by African Americans were smartphones—and among younger people in this group, that was over 50%.

And least year research from Rebtel (an internet telephony provider) showed that tablet computers are especially popular in several immigrant communities in the U.S.

“Ethic communities are more advanced not just in terms of how they use text messaging and smartphone apps, but also the mobile web,” said Duran. “For many ethnic groups, their mobile devices are the primary way they access the web. Since they’re using that platform, we should be giving them news and information that suits the platform they use. That makes what we offer more valuable, because it’s easier for them to find and use.”

What emerging business opportunities can mobile yield for ethnic and community news sites?

“Mobile delivers better data about your users, which helps you become even more relevant to them,” said Duran. “First of all, analytics for your mobile traffic can deliver more accurate info on where your users are. You also learn more about who they are. Unlike computers, a mobile device tends to be used by only one person. The more relevant you can be, the more engaging you can be—and so can your advertisers. Advertisers pay more to reach more engaged audiences.”

Mobile-optimized advertising is the natural place to start when looking to earn revenue from mobile offerings, said Duran. This includes ads that run on a mobile-optimized website or app, which can be served directly by the news venue or from a digital ad network. In fact, some ad networks offer tools to make it easy for news venues to create ad-supported apps.

“Using an ad network will help you get some initial information about your mobile audience,” Duran said. “They’ll give your statistics on your clickthroughs, engagement, etc. So you know what your mobile audience is doing. They can’t give you as much data as you’ll probably get from measuring your regular website traffic, but that’s still a lot of very useful information.”

And then: “Once you gain more experience with mobile and get more data about your mobile users, you can actually start segmenting your mobile audience and creating more tailored offerings that can be sold directly,” said Duran. “So if you’re already serving a niche market like a specific ethnic community, you might have even more of an edge in the mobile market.”

Duran recommends offering options in all mobile channels—from text alerts and mobile-optimized e-mail to the mobile web and apps. But strategy and moderation are crucial.

“You don’t want to overuse these tools. Especially with texts and e-mail,” he said. “You want to drive people from text or e-mail alerts to your mobile site. So don’t sent them lots of alerts; send them a few and show them where to click to learn more on their phone.”

The News Leadership 3.0 blog is made possible by a grant to USC Annenberg 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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