New Model Journalism

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Archive for the ‘Advertising’ Category

Old model for new journalism – weekly paper proves sustainable

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Case study by Alex Klaushofer.

You could call it the new traditionalism. The Cleethorpes Chronicle is a rare beast – a weekly local newspaper, a start-up bucking the trend of the decline of print, launched in the teeth of recession and funded by advertising.

The paper was founded in March 2008 by editor Nigel Lowther and managing director Mark Webb on the strength of personal investment plus bank loans. Both men had substantial experience in the area’s regional press – the former was deputy editor of the Grimsby Telegraph, while Webb had been managing director at Grimsby and Scunthorpe newspapers. They had done no formal market research to establish the paper’s viability, but had a ‘strong gut feeling’ that the town, which had never had its own paper, could support one.

Three years on, it seems they were right. The paper has a weekly circulation of 10,000 and is available at around 90 local outlets from newsagents to supermarkets. Firmly in profit, and with a total staff of 13, it draws most of its revenue from advertising, while a small proportion comes from the paper’s cover price of 45p.

In marked contrast to the regional press, where expectations of profit can hit 30%, the proprietors of the Cleethorpes Chronicle say they will be content with profits of 5%.

It’s an aspiration, says Lowther, very much in keeping with the climate that traditionally nurtured local journalism. ‘We’re coming full circle,’ he says. ‘A hundred years ago, local newspapers were owned by local businesses who wanted to promote their message and make a contribution to the community. That’s exactly what we’re doing.’

Being at the heart of the community, he says, is key to developing the clear editorial vision central to the paper’s success. Despite their higher cost, it was decided from the outset to have offices in the town centre so that paper and community could communicate freely. The result is the classic local paper blend of stories and listings about what’s going on in the town’s schools and WIs – what Lowther calls ‘below-radar community journalism’.

Surprisingly, this is achieved with only one full-time reporter, supported by part-time staff who come in to produce the paper on a short press cycle. ‘Editorially, we are a lean, mean team,’ says Lowther. ‘If you’ve got a good team, they know what they’ve got to do, and it’s very focused.’

To avoid spreading the limited resources too thinly, the Chronicle has no news website, maintaining an online presence solely through a static, showcase-style site. And, if and when an online news operation is launched, the proprietors have already made some clear decisions about the business model.

‘We’ve always said we will never put our content online free of charge,’ says Lowther. ‘No other business does it, so we don’t see why newspapers should.’

Written by Alex

April 4th, 2011 at 4:34 am

Ad server goes hyperlocal

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Rvolve, which serves location-specific ads to a site, launched in beta this week.  Created by West Midland’s based developer Peter Abrahamson, it claims to allow advertisers to control where their ads appear to post code level. It is targeted at publishers of hyperlocal news sites.

Its structure is similar to Google’s Adsense, with advertisers paying per click, and publishers receiving 66% – 75% of revenue generated. 

“For advertisers, Rvolve gives new options to target around a series of shops, for example. Because the ads are distributed on multiple sites, there is an opportunity for large numbers of highly targeted local customers, which is the kind that actually purchases.” says Abrahamson.

The service works by having a latitude and longitude coordinate for the publisher’s content, and a coordinate for every advertisement. Using geographic search technology, which was developed by Rvolve’s author, the most relevant local adverts are shown.

Although clearly different to Addiply, it is evidence of the growing interest in effectively serving homebrew and hyperlocal sites with ads.

Written by Tim Dawson

February 22nd, 2011 at 3:40 am

New magazine aims to cash in on Good Life

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Photo by Max (Flickr)

Amid the endless tales of failing titles, the launch of a new monthly suggests the traditional model for magazine publication may be alive and, er, laying.

Your Chickens, which goes on sale tomorrow in newsagents and supermarkets across Britain, aims to find a market among the 500,000 people who keep hens in their back gardens.

Publishers Archant South West decided to launch the title when readers of their successful magazine Country Smallholding indicated there was a demand for something more specialised.

‘Over the last twelve months we’ve been getting more and more enquiries from people keeping chickens in their back garden. It was very difficult to cater for them in Country Smallholding,’ Anna Atkinson told NMJ.

Your Chickens, which will have a print run of 25,000, will offer readers tips from celebrity hen keepers, advice from poultry experts and pieces for children.

Archant is sticking to the traditional business model, and plans to draw a maximum of 35% of its revenue from advertising and the rest from its cover price. ‘We have no doubt in our minds that it will work,’ said Atkinson.

If it does, Your Chickens may be further evidence that at least part of the future of journalism is niche.

Written by Alex

January 12th, 2011 at 7:29 am

NeighbourNet reveals key to hyperlocal success

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In the first of a series of case studies looking at commercial hyperlocals, NMJ visits NeighbourNet.

Started in 2000, NeighbourNet claims to be the only fully commercial hyperlocal operation in the UK.

Its network of ten sites – all in London, and bearing the strapline ‘local intelligence for intelligent locals’ – use the same proprietary software developed by the company. Each site is run by a home-based editor and, once profitable, profits are split fifty-fifty between the two parties. Flagship site Chiswickw4, now in its eighth year, generates enough revenue to support a full-time editor.

The main source of revenue is advertising, which is sold and posted from the NeighbourNet office. Visitors to the site are encouraged to become members, a free service which entitles them to the weekly newsletter and participation in the discussion forums. Getting subscribers are part of the building of reputation essential for selling advertising.

Founder-director Sean Kelly says that as most advertising is sold to independent local businesses, familiarity with the site is key to the model. ‘It’s very difficult to sell ad space to people who are not familiar with the site – almost impossible,’ he says.

The other key to success is the right editor. ‘We look for the best possible person, someone we think is going to make a great site,’ says Kelly. They also need to have staying power – developing a site to the point where it’s making money takes ‘a long, long time – say three to four years.’

It’s important, but not vital, that the editor have journalism skills. ‘We’re now finding that more and more people who approach us have a high level of journalism skills, but we’re always willing to consider people who don’t,’ he adds. NeighbourNet editors must live in the local area, though: ‘They have to be fairly active in the community, so that they have their ear to the ground.’

With most of the technical side taken care of, and advertising sold centrally, it’s a formula that encourages individuals with good local knowledge and a bent for journalism to take the plunge. Editor of Fulhamsw6 Sheila Prophet says she ‘knows every street’ of her local area. She started the site in early 2009 with decades on Fleet Street and magazines behind her, but no experience of online journalism.

Sources for news include the local hack’s staples of releases from the council, hospitals, police, schools and clubs, plus keeping an eye out for what’s going on. ‘A big part of it is just walking round and seeing what’s happening in the streets,’ says Prophet.

‘There’s no shortage of stories – there’s always a queue of stuff waiting to go on,’ she adds. ‘Hyperlocal could even more hyper if you wanted. I sometimes think I could do a website for my block of flats.’

Fulhamsw6 has yet to go into profit, but meanwhile NeighbourNet pay Prophet a retainer of ‘a few hundred a month’. ‘It’s an interesting sideline’ – you’re not going to make your fortune,’ she says. Combining the editorship with her other freelance work, she estimates that the site takes between and third and half of her time.

In NeighbourNet part 2, which will follow later, founder-director Kelly surveys how the hyperlocal landscape has changed over the past decade

Written by Alex

November 16th, 2010 at 4:46 am

Advertising that puts publishers in control

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Journalists and website owners who expect the web to deliver them a living are set to be disappointed, warns entrepreneurial publishing pioneer Rick Waghorn.  However, by making use of his Addiply, advertisement placement system, they can offer a genuine service to their community and start to earn in a way that Google’s AdSense simply does not allow.

His system which is now used by over 160 micro publishers, as well as Guardian Media, Johnston Press and Trinity Mirror, is blissfully simple. It takes publishers 20 minutes or so to sign up for an account. Once this is in place, they can choose to sell banner ads, set a price based on CPM or click through. Publishers do then have to find their own advertisers, but Addiply pays 90% of the revenue generated to the publisher (Waghorn takes 7%, PayPal 3%).

The first adopter and biggest earner to date is Craig McGinty, publisher of thisfrenchlife.com, who has made around £2,500 over the past two years. Waghorn also mentions greenerleith.org as being among the more effective users of his service.

Waghorn’s trajectory is a familiar one. Around the time of his 40th birthday, he looked around the sports desk at the Norwich Evening News in 2006, where he worked. He saw waves of redundancies approaching. Since then he has unveiled a host of innovations to make money from online publishing. 

Myfootballwriter.com was his first venture – a news site devoted to Norwich City FC.  By the summer of 2007 he realised that 400,000 page impressions had delivered him just $130 from AdSense.

He first stated to add banner ads to his site. “Click through’s from the banner ads are very poor”, he concedes. “But advertisers – particularly small local businesses – understand them”.

A chance encounter with Ian Thurbon, or tipexchange.co.uk provided Waghorn with a technical expert who had already created his own advertisement-bid model. In late 2007, Addiply was taking shape (add to ads and multiply, is the basis for the name)and its Waghorn was sharing platform at a conference in New York with adservers such as BlogAds and OpenX.  “They both provide top-down solutions”, he says.  “If your numbers aren’t great, you won’t survive.  Addiply is a street level solution – it is a piece of kit that allows you to find advertisers in your own community.”

To date, Addiply is a tiny operation.  Five rounds of venture capitalists have come and gone without investing.  But recent successes with major publishers give Waghorn hope.  The Guardian now has Addiply on its three Beat Blogger sites (Leeds, Edinburgh and Cardiff – although at the time of writing only the Leeds version has paid-for ads in the slots).  “It you look at the Guardian Leeds pages, you will see ads that are making £18 a week for the paper, which I guarantee is more than the rest of the ads on that page” says Waghorn.

Whether expansion comes quickly, with investment, or organically, Waghorn has plenty more up his sleeve. He promises an affiliate system that will allow third parties to undertake the role of ad salesperson for third party sites. Publishers would still be able to block ads they didn’t like, and would probably only receive 65% of revenue – but they would not have to expend shoe leather making sales.

Dollar and Euro versions are also on the cards, as is a means of monetising Twitter feeds.

Written by Tim Dawson

October 19th, 2010 at 7:29 am

Journalism graduates get hyper (local)

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Hyperlocal start-up The Lincolnite has declared itself open for advertising business.

The Lincolnite was launched an experiment in May when journalism graduates of the University of Lincoln realised the city had no dedicated local news provider. Since then, it has built a team of staff and freelances, secured a grant from Enterprise@Lincoln, and now gets over 10,000 unique visitors a month.

A detailed interview with associate editor Elizabeth Fish can be found at www.journalism.co.uk

Written by Alex

October 8th, 2010 at 4:38 am

Government details plans for local TV

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Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt is to take another step in realising the government’s vision of a network of local TV stations today. Hunt, who has yet to convince the industry that there will be sufficient advertising revenue to fund the initiative, is to lay out his plans in a speech to the Royal Television Society.

Written by Alex

September 28th, 2010 at 3:10 am

Government plans help and hinder local papers

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Meanwhile, over at the Department of Communities and Local Government, the government is intervening in one aspect of the crisis facing local papers – the competition posed by council newspapers.

In June, with characteristic candour, Communities minister Eric Pickles called the freesheets distributed by councils in their local areas ‘town hall Pravdas’, suggesting they wasted taxpayers’ money and undermined a free press. The government plans to revise the Code of Recommended Practice on Local Authority Publicity – the statutory guidance for local authority communications – to restrict what councils can publish.

Unsurprisingly, the bodies representing councils argue that council newspapers complement rather than compete with local newspapers. LG Communications condemned the government’s decision, saying that council papers fill the ‘growing information gap’ left by poor local reporting.Research published by the Local Government Association last year found that council publications contained information about local services rather local news.

With the jury out about how big a threat council papers pose to local journalism, it’s hard to say whether this change in policy will benefit the independent press.

But a second government measure is likely to worry local papers, along with the trade press, whose revenues are also dependent on adverts for jobs in the public sector. In July, Pickles announced plans to oblige councils to place job adverts online as a way of driving down costs. One organisation’s cheaper advertising is another organisation’s falling advertising revenues …

Written by Alex

September 14th, 2010 at 11:04 am

Award-winning hyperlocal ‘not the media’

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NMJ is spending some time away at the beach this month, but we’ll still be keeping an eye out for key developments and bringing them to you.

Meanwhile, the third of a series of case studies examining hyperlocals, NMJ looks at the Isle of Wight’s award-winning Ventnor Blog

It’s easy to see what won Ventnor Blog the title of ‘Best Hyperlocal site in the UK’ in this year’s Talk About Local awards. The site exudes both professionalism and passion, with its clear, user-friendly format and rapidly-changing posts about life on the Isle of Wight.

Husband-and-wife team Sally and Simon Perry have been pouring time and energy into the site since starting it five years ago, when they moved to Ventnor from London, having previously run a site about digital media.

‘We couldn’t believe how much was going on in the island. We were amazed at the vibrant music and arts scene.’ says Simon Perry. Harder news followed, with the pair covering stories such as the council’s education reforms and the financial details of its PFI schemes.

Now, nearly 9,000 articles and 28,000 comments further on, the website has firmly established itself as a major information-provider on the island. Locals turned to it for vital updates during the January snow earlier this year. ‘It doesn’t snow on the island,’ says Perry. ‘The council website couldn’t keep up with the demands, so we were the source of the info for everyone.’

But such success comes at a cost. Perry admits that the site doesn’t provide its owners with a viable living: local advertising generates only a modest revenue, while Adsense, with its tourism-oriented adverts, proved of little interest to a readership made up largely of islanders.

‘We’re constantly wondering how we are living,’ he says. ‘We’ve been editorially driven up to now – it’s really the pursuit of the story that’s replaced food. Now we’ve got the audience, the shift is to start to make money from it.’

The publisher-editors have also had to face the other main challenge that often besets the blogger – the charge of unprofessionalism.

In February this year, the local coroner’s court ejected Perry from a hearing about the sudden death of a council employee on the grounds that he was ‘neither a member of the public nor a member of the press.’

Perry has challenged the decision, citing his years of reporting and membership of the NUJ, who have backed the case.

But his main argument expresses that classic journalistic principle that the activities of the courts must remain open to public scrutiny:

‘If you lose free access to the courts, all sorts of nasty things could happen,’
he says.

Written by Alex

August 2nd, 2010 at 4:05 am

Does local journalism still need journalists?

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Are journalists still vital to local journalism? That was the question implicitly raised by speakers at the Local Heroes conference on May 14th, run by Press Gazette and Kingston University.

Community website guru William Perrin – who describes himself not as a journalist but a community activist – recounted how the website he developed for the King’s Cross area is able to cover issues at a level of detail local papers could never hope to achieve.

He cited other examples such as Parwich.org, a website generated by and for a village of just five hundred residents, where volunteer writers have contributed 3000 posts since the site launched in March 2008.

While the website has a good relationship with the local paper, it wouldn’t cover what was going on in Parwich, he said. ‘How could they achieve the same level of granularity?’

The theme was echoed by James Hatts, who founded hyper-local London SE1, a monthly print publication which covers the areas in and around London’s Borough back in 1998. With both the Southwark News and the South London Press, the area is well-served by local papers but, he said, ‘despite that, there is still a huge seam of stories that don’t see the light of day in these papers’.

Now the stand-alone community website which complements the print publication consistently gets at least 500,000 page views a month.

But Perrin didn’t have much reassurance to offer those seeking a hyper-local model that can generate the finance to support journalists to do journalism.

With no advertising revenue generated by kingscrossenvironment.org, he makes a living training local communities to set up similar sites with funding from Channel 4. The virtues of the model he had developed, he stressed, were its low start-up costs and ability to harness the wealth of volunteer labour among the community.

Later, Hatts told NMJ that he ‘just about’ makes a living from SE1. Half his income comes via Google Adsense, and the other half is generated by the commission local restaurants and bars pay for bookings made through the site, he revealed.

He added that – twelve years on from starting the project with his father – he wouldn’t like to be starting from scratch now, with so much more online competition.

Further questions about the role of journalists were raised by Wanja Oberhof from Berlin, who told an eye-wateringly impressive tale of publishing a pioneering paper personalised to individual readers’ interests.

Hold on tight, reader, here’s the scary bit: Niiu, which is now heading for 5000 subscribers, has No Editorial Staff Whatsoever, relying entirely on software to put together a digest of various print and online sources.

As journalists are all-too keenly aware, the economics of news production bears a close relation to maintaining quality journalism – a point reinforced by industry veterans.

Tony Johnston, director of training at the Press Association, which is launching a subsidised public service reporting scheme, pointed out that standard NCTJ training includes 120 hours of guided learning for law alone: ‘It’s like that for a reason. It’s not an easy task,’ he said. ‘Journalism for me remains a profession.’

His stance was echoed by Camden New Journal editor Eric Gordon, who said there were limits to how much could be contributed by enthusiastic locals. ‘A journalist knows about law, ethics – ought to be testing the material,’ he said. ‘I wouldn’t just accept what the residents say.’

But David Parkin, whose regional news service theBusinessDesk.com now employs fifteen journalists, had some encouraging news about his ‘fremium’ model, which offers editorial content free and generates income through advertising, sponsorship and events.

‘We set up as a free model; we’ve made profits as a free model,’ he said.