Monetize Restaurant Reviews

How to Monetize Restaurant Reviews

Check out these top strategies to monetize restaurant reviews.

Texans love good food, so it was only natural for the most well-known city magazine in Dallas, D Magazine, to dig into the local restaurant scene with reviews, guides, and stories about top chefs and notable openings. Like other top publishers, D Magazine has been able to monetize restaurant reviews and use its coverage of the local dining scene to keep readers on its website for longer.

For digital publishers, restaurant reviews can mean big bucks, particularly when content is properly harnessed and utilized in strategic ways. Here’s how to monetize restaurant reviews, based on the strategies used by some of the top publishers in the business.

5 Ways to Monetize Restaurant Reviews

1. Display Advertising

The first step in being able to monetize restaurant reviews is to sell display advertising alongside reviews and other dining content. Publishers have the option to sell their own advertising or to work with a larger ad server, like Google Ad Manager.

(Check out this list of the best ad servers for publishers.)

Selling ad space through a platform like Google is generally the easiest and fastest way for a publisher to monetize restaurant reviews, however there is more money to be made by selling display advertising space to businesses directly. Restaurants, especially local restaurants in the surrounding area, will pay a premium to have their ads run alongside restaurant reviews.

2. Sponsored Reviews

Publishers can charge restaurants a blanket fee to publish their own content, whether that’s a review or an article, under a “Sponsored Content” heading. Sponsored restaurant reviews can been tricky to navigate as a publisher, however most publications are comfortable running this type of content so long as the applicable disclaimers are posted.

The best place to start, as you look for restaurants that would be interested in paying to sponsor a review, is with your current advertising roster. Call up the businesses who run display advertising on your website and ask if they would be interested in sponsoring a restaurant review. Obviously, restaurants are most likely to be interested in this type of content, but businesses that cater to restaurant customers—for example, movie theaters or cooking supply stores—might also be interested in this type of advertising deal.

To connect with larger restaurant brands about sponsored reviews, check out online networks like Foodie Blogroll and FoodBuzz.

3. Online Directories

Top publishers are creating their own online restaurant directories, and then making money by selling advertising in their directories and offering paid directory listings.

Using the restaurant reviews you’ve already published, you can quickly populate a local restaurant directory. In addition to basic information—like the name, address, and phone number of each restaurant in town—your directory listings should include links to any reviews or other articles that have been published on your website.

4. Guides & E-Books

Being able to monetize restaurant reviews is really about finding as many ways to make money off the content as possible. So far, we’ve talked about selling display advertising alongside the reviews, using the reviews to populate online restaurant directories, and now we’ll get into the art of packaging restaurant reviews to publish in city guides and e-books.

People visiting your city, or people who have an interest in the restaurant scene, will pay for books with information about all of that city’s top dining establishments. It doesn’t even matter if most of the content in your e-book is already available online for free. The real value in a city dining guide is that the information is packaged in an easily-digestible way, so readers can quickly flip through and find information about any restaurant they’re thinking about visiting.

Whether these guides are in printed or in electronic form is up to you. The easiest way to get started is typically by using a service like KDP by Amazon, however you can also check out services like Lulu and Smashwords to publish and distribute books in electronic format.

5. Members-Only Access

Lots of news publications have paywalls up, requiring readers to subscribe before they can access certain types of content or sections of the website. Digital publishers who are interested in new ways to monetize restaurant reviews can place paywalls around their dining sections.

In addition to offering basic website subscriptions, larger publishers can offer dining section-only subscriptions, so readers who have a vested interest in the local dining scene can access reviews and other dining information without paying for the full price of a regular subscription.

The amount you charge for access to your website’s restaurant reviews or dining section is dependent on how much content you have and how much your readers are willing to pay. In most cases, we wouldn’t recommend charging more than $5 or $10 per month for access.

If you’d like advice on how to monetize restaurant reviews in your own publication, we’d love to help.

Make Money From a News Website

How to Make Money From a News Website — 5 Steps

When most entrepreneurs launch a news website, they focus on the hard work, dedication, and technical savvy that’s necessary to get a new project up and running. But what happens next is what really determines whether a news website flourishes or fails.

In order to make money from a news website, publishers need to know all the revenue streams that are out there, and which specific revenue streams are likely to work best for their publications. They should also understand that making money from a news website takes time. Even the founders of Berkeleyside, widely heralded as the gold-standard for local news publishing online, had to wait 18 months after launching to before they could start paying themselves a modest monthly salary.

Local news websites these days make the bulk of their revenue through display advertising, however newer strategies, like sponsorships, subscriptions, memberships, and live events, are all being used to help boost the bottom line.

Here are the first five steps online publishers should take if they want to make money from a news website.

5 steps to make money from a news website

Step 1: Focus on the content

Don’t jump into online advertising too quickly. Independent digital publishers, like Berkeleyside, typically wait at least six months after launch before they begin selling advertising packages to local businesses.

Before approaching any local businesses with advertising opportunities, we recommend digging into the most important aspect of any news website — the content. Work with your editors, reporters, photographers, and other content producers to create an editorial style that’s entirely unique. You may also want to write an editorial mission statement that clarifies the purpose of your publication.

Potential advertisers want to see what type of content their ads will be running alongside, and what sort of message the publication is putting out. With a few months worth of regular posts, your website will be much more attractive to potential advertisers.

Step 2: Approach local advertisers

Which businesses advertise in the daily newspaper or other local news websites in your area? These are the best businesses to start with as you begin exploring outside advertising opportunities and potential sponsorship deals, as these businesses have already demonstrated an affinity for the local press.

Hooking that first advertiser can take time, so don’t get frustrated if businesses say they want to hold off at first. Keep focusing on putting out solid reporting and building a core audience full of loyal (and local) readers, and businesses will eventually be persuaded to advertise.

Step 3: Consider pay-per-click advertising

Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising can be controversial in the local news industry. PPC advertising is typically run through Google’s AdSense, however a number of other vendors cater to independent local news publishers, as well.

PPC advertising is not a favorite of local news publishers because rates are typically much lower than what publishers could earn by selling to advertisers directly. Most publishers earn between $0.50 to $2 per click. Popular websites with mass appeal can easily bring in thousands of dollars per month through PPC advertising. However, most independent local news websites cater to much smaller audiences. Thus, PPC advertising may not be the right fit for these publishers.

If you are still in the early stages of learning how to make money from a news website, and especially if you are still supplementing your direct sales, then PPC advertising can be a useful tool for filling display advertising slots that would otherwise sit empty.

Step 4: Start selling subscriptions

For all the reasons outlined above, display advertising is not always a great fit for independent news publishers with niche audiences. Rather than earning a few cents per click, publishers who want to make money from a news website will often have better luck focusing on their readership and selling subscriptions to their content.

The longer a publication has been in business, and the more content that publication puts out, the more successful a subscription program is likely to be. However, even younger publishers with a year or less under their belts, can have success with this strategy. (Check out this article on how to design the best subscription sign-up page to convert more readers.)

Step 5: Host live events

Live events are quickly becoming a substantial source of revenue for publishers, which is one of the reasons why we couldn’t leave this step off the list of ways to make money from a news website.

Industry conferences are an excellent source of revenue for niche publishers. Local news websites might consider hosting community forums or meet up events. In addition to selling tickets to attendees, publishers can also sell sponsorship packages to businesses.

Are you having trouble generating revenue from your news website? Get in contact with one of our digital publishing experts for a free video consultation, and we can get started putting together a plan to get you back on track.

Launching a local news site

The 5 Best Strategies for Launching a Local News Site

Only the strong survive in the local publishing community. Launching a local news site requires a solid business plan and a firm grasp on the needs of the community you’re planning to cover.

While statistics on the number of local news sites are scarce, the number is clearly growing, and competition for readers and ad dollars is fierce.

Despite that competition, there has perhaps never been a better time to consider launching a local news site, given the news consumption habits of American readers. According to Pew Research Center, four-in-10 Americans often get their news online, and 28% get their information from news websites directly. That’s a lot of eyeballs, and potential revenue, for online publishers.

Based on our experience working with local publishers in the midst of launching local news sites, these are our five best strategies for success.

1. Launching a Local News Site: Know the Competition
Who are the dominant publishers in the community you’re planning to cover, and how long have they been in business? By doing your research beforehand, you can dig deep into the publications already having success within your niche and find out what they’re doing that readers love.

When researching competing publications, pay particular attention to which topics they cover, how they promote their stories, and how they generate revenue. For example, you may discover that competing publications place significant emphasis on local high school sports or city council coverage. Just because existing publications cover these topics doesn’t mean you need to, but you should use that information for reference when strategizing and launching a local news site.

2. Launching a Local News Site: Find Gaps in Existing Coverage
Now that you’ve done your research on competing publications, it’s time to start thinking about what topics or areas are being left uncovered. Finding a unique niche is one of the best ways to guarantee immediate success when launching a local news site.

In order to find holes in existing news coverage, you should get on social media and use hashtags to ask people in the community what they’d like to learn more about. You can also use web analytics and keyword research tools to find out what people in the area are searching for on Google.

When you’re launching a local news site, it pays to dig into a specific niche. Leave the state and national political coverage to the big media companies. Less competition means greater chances for success.

3. Launching a Local News Site: Develop a Strategy for Monetization
One of the key differences between a hobby blog and a professional news website is monetization. If you’re launching a hobby blog, feel free to jump right into content creation. However, anyone hoping to turn their local news site into a sustainable business needs a solid monetization strategy.

Thankfully, there are endless opportunities for generating revenue as a local publisher in 2018. The most common revenue generation strategy for new publishers is selling advertising to local businesses, but it’s growing increasingly common for more established publishers to sell subscriptions, as well.

Check out the Web Publisher PRO archives for more ideas for generating revenue. We’ve covered how to generate revenue through live events, membership programs, and e-commerce, along with other forms of ancillary revenue.

4. Launching a Local News Site: Start Creating Content
With a business plan and monetization strategy firmly in place, the next step in launching a local news site is to begin creating content. Breaking news coverage is easy to produce, but it also goes stale quickly. Our best tip for any publisher in the early stages of launching a local news site is to think about evergreen content. Which topics are likely to generate clicks in the coming weeks, months, or even years?

For publishers planning to cover specific neighborhoods or communities, we recommend starting with a local restaurant guide or niche business guide. This is the type of content readers are likely to discover on Google in the years to come, and when done right, it can become a valuable resource for people new to the community.

5. Launching a Local News Site: Develop a Readership
You’ve got a business plan, a monetization strategy, and an archive of great content. Now is not the time to sit back and let readers come to you. Whenever you’re launching a local news site, it’s imperative that you reach out into the community and bring readers to your site.

One of the easiest ways to do this is through social media advertising. You can target social media users in specific geographic areas, or users who’ve indicated an interest in specific topics like local news. Depending on the niche or community, you may also want to consider sponsoring local events and festivals as a way to get your publication’s name out there.

Launching a local news site has never been easier, but keeping that newly launched publication afloat, and turning it into a sustainable business, requires foresight, patience, and hard work. If you’d like to learn more about the best strategies for launching local news sites, please reach out to one of our publishing experts at Web Publisher PRO.

increase subscription revenue

How to Increase Subscription Revenue – A Guide for Local Publishers

Subscription revenue is on the rise at online news outlets across the country, so why are local publishers still feeling the financial pinch?

Readers are flocking to online news outlets, and there’s been a renewed interest in supporting local journalism over the past few years, but publishers still need to optimize their subscription programs if they want to make up for declining online advertising rates.

Simply adding a “subscribe now” button to a homepage isn’t enough to make a financial impact. To increase their subscription revenue, publishers have to go further.

The Subscription-First Model

Subscription revenue at major news outlets like the New York Times and the Washington Post is on the rise. The New York Times added 132,000 subscribers in just the first 18 days after the 2016 presidential election, and new subscriptions at the Post have grown by 75%. Local publishers are experiencing similar successes, but subscription rates and subscription revenue are two very different beasts.

The increases publishers are seeing in subscription revenue are being negated by decreases in advertising rates. To that end, some local publishers are going with a subscription-first model that does away with advertising altogether and focuses on increasing the appeal to readers with VIP experiences. These publishers are finding that readers are more apt to subscribe when they get access to an ad-free publication. That means no pop-ups covering their screens or filling up their browsers.

Local publishers who aren’t quite ready to do away with ads altogether are taking a hybrid approach, allowing paying subscribers to enjoy an ad-free experience while non-paying readers still see ads alongside most website content.

Understanding the Audience

Subscription revenue is tied to subscription rates, so how does a publication get more readers to subscribe? If only there was a magic solution. The truth is that the most successful local publications rely on analytics to understand what their readers want to see. Catering to the audience is always important, but especially so in a time when publishers are trying to increase subscription revenue.

Using analytics tools, publishers should segment their audiences by loyalty and the likelihood that they will pay for access. That’s the group that publishers should be catering to. In addition to tracking which pages these readers view, publishers should be keeping tabs on engagement.

Drilling down in this way, publishers may discover that the readers who are likely to pay for access care about different topics than the public at large. They may also discover that members of this group are more likely to click on coupons or arrive at their sites through social media.

In a series of studies looking at what moves readers to subscribe to news publications, the Media Insight Project found that quality and accuracy matter to almost every subscriber group, and regardless of their underlying motivations, many subscribers are triggered by well-times subscription discounts.

The Media Insight Project found that market size matters, too. New subscribers at smaller news outlets are more likely to subscribe after moving into town than those at larger outlets.

Other factors that drive readers to subscribe have to do with an interest in news, having noticed interesting articles, or being concerned about the accuracy of other news sources in their communities. Local publishers can focus on these factors as they look for ways to drive subscription revenue.

Closing the Deal

We know what types of subscription programs drive revenue for local publications, and what factors make readers to want to subscribe. So how do successful local publishers close the deal and turn readers’ interest in their websites into subscription revenue.

Conversion requires a trigger, and the most successful trigger in this case is a price reduction.

According to the Media Insight Project’s research, discounted subscription pricing is the most effective trigger, with 45% of recent news subscribers citing that as a reason for subscribing. Twenty-one percent of readers subscribe to local news sites as a way to get coupons from ads, and 16% say paywalls are a motivating factor. A recent move into the area, or a lifestyle change, can also lead readers to subscribe to a local news site.

Timing is everything here. When readers hit paywalls, they should see a quick way to subscribe for immediate access. When they click onto pages designed for new residents, they should see ads encouraging them to subscribe. And when readers have visited a website a certain number of times in a month, pop-ups should start appearing with discounted subscription prices. These are all conversion tactics that will increase subscription revenue, with minimal work on the publisher’s part.

Increasing subscription revenue isn’t a one step process, but simple tweaks can add up to major changes in subscription patterns.

turning readers into subscribers

The Price Is Right: How Local Publishers Set Subscription Prices

How much will people pay for local news? It’s a question that every local publisher has pondered. But with the number of publishers launching subscription and membership programs on the rise, the need for real information about how to set subscription prices has never been greater.

Where is the ceiling on local publishing subscription rates? How much will readers pay, and at what point will a high price tag turn them away?

The answer to these questions has to do with the perceived value of the subscription. The greater the perceived value of whatever the reader is paying for—whether it’s a subscription, a membership, or even just limited access to premium content—the higher the price tag the publisher can justify.

Increasing the perceived value of a local publication’s subscription program requires publishing more high quality, relevant articles, and launching add-on services like local business directories, podcasts, and email newsletters.

Perceived value is also tied to marketing. A local publication that successfully promotes itself through both traditional and non-traditional forms of marketing is going to have a higher perceived value than one that does not, even if the publication that promotes itself has a lower quality of journalism.

Publishers looking at how to set subscription prices should consider the perceived value their publications or websites are providing to readers. What are readers getting in exchange for their hard earned dollars? The higher the value, the higher the acceptable subscription rate.

“The Price of a Cup of Coffee”

If you’ve been around the local publishing industry for any length of time, you’ve seen subscription marketing materials that tout monthly rates that are lower than the price of a cup of coffee. The Guardian is one of many publications charging $5 per month for subscriptions, roughly the same price as a grande-sized latte at Starbucks.

When local publishers set subscription prices at $5 per month, they position themselves alongside cups of coffee. When rates go up to $10 per month, they position their subscription programs alongside Spotify and Netflix. The value proposition there is much harder to justify for small publishers, which is why $5 per month seems to be the sweet spot for many in the industry.

One way that local publishers do justify higher price points with their subscription and membership programs is by offering paying readers ad-free experiences and valuable extras, like exclusive stories and podcasts, invitations to meet up events with reporters, and early access to new website features.

Considering Reader Demographics

Reader demographics play in a role in the subscription prices that publishers can charge, as well. Publishers who are getting ready to set subscription prices have to look at who their readers are and how much they can afford.

Niche publications will often find that their readers will pay more than the readers of community-focused news sites. For example, Stratechery, a site that provides free weekly content and additional analysis to paying subscribers, charges $10 a month. That price would be on the high side for a website covering local news, but Stratechery focuses specifically on the technology and media business, with readers who tend to have high incomes.

Publishers that sell exclusive content, like research papers, can charge even more for access. This is especially true if they market their subscriptions to businesses rather than individuals. For example, Business Insider’s research division was charging $2,495 for all-access memberships back in 2016. Politico Pro offers up another example. The policy intelligence website, launched by the team at Politico, has been known to charge corporations between $5,000 and $10,000 for premium access.

Scale becomes a lot less important when you’re selling subscriptions for thousands of dollars a pop. But, of course, the vast majority of local publishers can’t expect to set subscription prices so high. According to an analysis conducted by Pew Research Center, the median price of a digital subscription to U.S. newspapers is $10 per month. Online-only outlets tend to charge less, while the largest newspapers in the country charge considerably more.

The median subscription rate for digital news is considerably lower than for print news. However, that rate is still 83% higher than it was in 2012, when the Reynolds Journalism Institute published its own report on the optimal price for online news subscriptions.

Market size didn’t play a role in Pew’s findings, however discounted trial subscriptions did result in higher conversion rates than free trial subscriptions, which is something for publishers to keep in mind as they design their marketing and conversion programs.

Given all of this information, it’s clear that local publishers looking to set subscription prices should keep these factors in mind:
1) Who is reading the publication?
2) How much can those readers afford?
3) What value are readers getting in exchange for their subscriptions?

Make Local Publications More Profitable

How to Make Local Publications More Profitable

Display advertising rates are declining, but overall revenues among digital news publishers have never been higher. How could that be? The answer is diversification. In order to make local publications more profitable, publishers are blazing new paths and adopting new income generation strategies that bolster the bottom line.

That means acknowledging the shift in display advertising, as more ad dollars have moved to Google and Facebook, and putting a greater focus on ancillary revenue streams like subscriptions, sponsored content, e-commerce, and live events. By broadening their revenue base, local publishers reduce their dependency on traditional forms of advertising income.

According to a report, nearly half (44%) of publishers already see subscriptions as a “very important” source of digital revenue, even greater than display advertising and branded content.

At Whereby.Us, a locally-focused email newsletter startup, consumer revenue now accounts for 10% of all revenue. That number is expected to triple in the next few years, as the company continues to expand its programs.

The Charlotte Agenda is diversifying, as well. The hyperlocal publisher runs a membership program that costs $60 per year. Members get certain perks, like the ability to contribute op-eds and receive coupons to local stores. But mostly, they’re helping to shore up the bottom line for the popular local news site.

Adaptability is the key.

One of the keys for anyone looking at how to make local publications more profitable is to be adaptable. A publication that relies solely on display advertising revenue is in trouble if advertising rates start to drop, but a publication with multiple streams of revenue is better positioned to handle the changing tides.

Not every revenue generation idea will be a winner, of course. It’s just not possible. But that doesn’t mean that local publishers should stop trying to succeed.

To make local publications more profitable, owners need to be aggressive in trying new ideas, and willing to pivot if one idea fails. An idea that works well for one publisher—like hosting local events—might flop for another. We expect that to happen from time to time. But in order to see gains and move closer to profitability, and make local publications more profitable, we need to start implementing new income streams on a regular basis.

Experimentation is necessary.

Even The New York Times takes gambles. The news outlet launched a mobile cooking app, with plans to start charging users for access. That kind of innovative thinking is what helps make local publications more profitable.

Not every gamble requires a big financial outlay. Thanks to print-on-demand services and dropshipping, a number of publishers have been able to setup e-commerce stores and sell branded content through their websites with minimal financial investments.

Of course, local newsrooms do traditionally have fewer resources than their national counterparts. This can make it more difficult to experiment with creative new revenue streams. But remember, the more ancillary streams a publisher has in place, the less of an impact there is when one fails.

Artificial intelligence could someday be used to support local journalism, as publishers get even more creative in using the technology to generate better recommendations and so-called “robo-journalism” articles.

Cookie-cutter models don’t work.

When we look for ways to make local publications more profitable, we have to look at the publications themselves. Each publication brings its own unique advantages, s well as disadvantages. The flexibility that local publishers have, coupled with the ability to quickly adapt to changing market trends, is one of their greatest assets.

In a recent report on the state of the local news industry, Columbia Journalism Review found that “income diversification is fundamental,” even if the long-term potential of some ideas are unproven. The seven most popular revenue-generation practices for publishers, according to CJR’s research, were:

  1. Subscriptions
  2. Paywalls
  3. Events
  4. Media services
  5. Newsletters
  6. Obituaries
  7. Foundations and crowdfunding

When publishers diversify their revenue streams, they don’t just increase profitability in the traditional sense. They also give readers more opportunities to interact with their brands. For small publishers, especially, that sort of brand affinity goes a long way toward boosting memberships, subscriptions, and ad sales.

If you’d like more information about the latest strategies we’re using to make local publications more profitable, please reach out to our team here at Web Publisher PRO.

Digital Publishing Industry

How Local Publishers Use Live Events to Drive Profitability

As local publishers look for new ways to squeeze every last drop of revenue from their publications, live events are becoming a more attractive option.

Most local publishers already have deep ties within the communities they cover, not just with readers, but with small business advertisers and elected officials, as well. Given those relationships, publishers are in an ideal spot to host and sponsor events like conferences, reader meet-and-greets, and even community festivals.

Ticket sales aren’t the only way publishers are generating revenue from live events. Publishers are also selling sponsorships to advertisers and using live events, like newsroom meet-and-greets, as an incentive to encourage readers to join their paid membership programs.

Although publishers can be tight-lipped about revenue, live events are estimated to account for as much as 20% of total revenues for some news outlets. Live events also deepen the relationships between publishers and local business sponsors, who might be more inclined to advertise on the publisher’s website after partnering on an event.

Here are the most popular types of live events for local publishers to host.

1. Conferences

Conferences are the most obvious and common type of live event for publishers to host. From Recode Media’s Code Conference in California to MediaPost’s Publishing Insider Summit in Texas, it’s fair to say that publisher-hosted conferences have gone mainstream.
Despite the ubiquity and success that digital publishers have had in generating revenue through conferences, there are some downsides to be aware of. Smaller local publishers can have difficulty selling out large venues. They might also have trouble managing the logistics of a conference without hiring a team of professionals who’ve hosted conferences in the past.

Conferences can be lucrative for publishers, but we generally recommend that smaller publishers start by hosting some of the other types of live events listed here before they move on to larger conferences.

2. Business Recognition Events

Business recognition events are an excellent way for local publishers to dip their toes into live event hosting, without requiring nearly as many logistical requirements as a conference.

Business recognition events can be held to honor the best places to work, the fastest growing companies, or the most charitable employers in the publisher’s town. Rather than relying on ticket sales, publishers generate revenue through business sponsorships. What business wouldn’t want its logo on the brochure and signage for an event honoring the most charitable or innovative companies in town?

One issue to consider with business recognition events is that they tend to be low margin, so publishers will have to keep a tight watch on spending to ensure they don’t lose money when hosting an event.

3. Newsroom meet-and-greets

As far as live events are concerned, it doesn’t get much more straightforward than hosting a newsroom meet-and-greet. This type of live event is ideal for local publishers with membership programs, since many readers would jump at the chance to tour the publisher’s newsroom and interact with their favorite columnists in exchange for paying a nominal monthly fee.

Newsroom meet-and-greets don’t have to be formal. All that’s really needed is a newsroom, some refreshments, and a publication’s staff. Local publications that don’t have dedicated office space can host their meet-and-greet events at local coffee shops or event spaces.

4. Local Festivals

Time Out Group, the British publisher of city magazines and travel guidebooks, hosts hundreds of live events each year. This summer alone, the company is planning to host a ‘Movies on the River’ event, with a floating cinema, a silent disco at a London skyscraper, and an event called Battle of the Burger in New York.

Smaller, local publishers often have success hosting tasting events with top restaurants or brewers in their towns. In most cases, restaurants will pay to participate at these events, other local businesses will pay to sponsor them, and attendees will pay for tickets, presenting a trifecta of revenue generation channels.

Because they are such large events, the majority of festivals rely largely on sponsorships from businesses for support. For example, Time Out’s floating cinema event is being sponsored by Rekorderlig Botanicals cider. If hosting a large festival is out reach for a community-focused publisher, there’s also the option of working with a third-party provider on a revenue sharing model.

Live events are rarely enough to sustain a local publisher by themselves, but they can serve as a valuable source of secondary income and they can lead to additional opportunities, like the chance to sell branded merchandise and promote membership programs. Content from live events can also be recycled into webinars and on-demand videos that readers must pay to access.

If you’d like more information about the revenue generation strategies we offer local publishers at Web Publisher PRO, feel free to reach out.

Make Local Publications More Profitable

Ancillary Revenue Opportunities for Local Publishers

As hyperlocal publishers search for new ways to generate income outside of online display advertising, ancillary revenue streams are moving into the forefront.

With online adverting rates continuing to decline, savvy digital publishers are looking to pursue every income generation strategy available. New opportunities to create ancillary revenue streams are allowing publishers to capitalize on the positive sentiment and goodwill they’ve created in their communities, and also serving as a diversification strategy that could offer protection should digital advertising rates fall any further.

Having multiple ancillary revenue streams means publishers are less reliant on traditional forms of advertising. If advertising rates get to an unsustainable place, publishers who’ve already started generating ancillary revenue will be at a marked advantage.

Here are five ancillary revenue opportunities available to publishers today:

1) Local Events
Event production gives local publishers the opportunity to generate ancillary revenue and promote their brands in a positive way.

The types of events that hyperlocal publications can host range from the small—like high school sports banquets and subscriber meet-and-greets—to the largest events imaginable, including music festivals and city-wide restaurant tasting events. In St. Louis, KMOX Radio produces Food Fight, an annual event where local chefs compete for the title of St. Louis’ Food Fight Champion.

Planning events takes hard work, commitment, and significant resources, especially for local publishers who aren’t used to running these types of operations. It’s often worthwhile to hire a local event planner, even if that cuts into profit margins.

A number of plugins are also available for publishers who run their websites with WordPress, including Events Manager, Event Tickets, Tickera, and Eventbrite.

2) Members-Only Podcasts
Podcasting is one of the fastest growing media channels. Rather than giving their podcasts out for free and relying on advertising revenue to support the endeavor, some publishers are turning their podcasts into premium experiences and charging readers to listen.

Publishers can structure their members-only podcasts in a number of ways. For example, some publishers lock all of their podcasts behind paywalls. That’s probably the least common option among small media companies. What’s more common is for local publishers give offer their subscribers an ad-free listening experience. Another solution that’s popular right now is to create two versions of each podcast, a short version that listeners can access for free and an extended, premium version with more in-depth reporting that only paying subscribers or members can access. In this case, podcasting becomes a tool that publishers can use to incentivize readers to become paying subscribers.

3) Online Stores
Whether a publication launches an online store really depends on if the company has anything to sell. In The New York Times Store, readers can purchase Times-branded apparel, like umbrellas and baby clothing, personalized books that contain news stories from important dates in histroy, front page reprints, maps, and books written by Times reporters.

Publishers who run their websites on WordPress can use the WooCommerce plugin to sell digital and physical products through their sites. The Printify for WooCommerce plugin can be used to print logos on products, like t-shirts and hats, on demand.

4) eBooks
Hyperlocal publishers know their communities better than anyone else, making them well positioned to sell eBooks on a wide variety of city-specific topics. From local history to tourist hot spots to comprehensive guides on dining in their towns, there are limitless opportunities for the entrepreneurial publisher.

Publishers have the option to commission books from their writers, or pull together content that has already been published, such as restaurant reviews. eBooks can then be sold through the publisher’s own website or given away for free as part of a package for new subscribers.

5) Subscriber List Rental
Perhaps the most controversial ancillary revenue solution on this list, list rentals involve giving out subscriber email addresses to businesses in exchange for a fee. The practice can be lucrative, as brands are willing to pay a premium for the service, but it can also dissuade readers from signing up to become subscribers and ultimately damage the publisher’s reputation if news of the practice gets out.

Somewhat less controversial is the co-branded email program. Rather than handing out their subscribers’ complete contact details, local publishers can send out co-branded emails together with outside companies.

Utilizing a variety of ancillary revenue opportunities, publishers can diversify their income and ultimately build more sustainable media organizations.

Launching a News Website

5 Steps to Launching a News Website

It all starts with a great idea. That’s the first step in launching a news website. But turning a great idea for a website into a viable business can get tricky.

Launching a news website doesn’t have to be expensive, and would-be entrepreneurs don’t necessarily need to be technically savvy to pull it off. As publishing tools have gotten easier to use, the number of independent news websites has grown. In the past two years alone, there’s been a 50% increase in publishers joining the Local Independent Online News (LION) Publishers, an organization that serves hyperlocal news operations.

What would-be publishers need in order to turn their ideas for niche publications into sustainable businesses is a strategic plan that encompasses editorial, business, and marketing.

5 steps to launching a news website

Step 1: Create a business plan

Launching a news website isn’t much different from launching a print newspaper or any other type of business. Everything begins with a business plan.

Come up with a mission for your publication—for example, “to educate members of the community about local politics”—and jot down some ideas about the topics you plan to cover. Once you’ve nailed down the editorial side of the operation, you’ll be better prepared to think objectively about how to generate revenue.

Use your business plan to outline your revenue strategies, which might include things like selling advertising, charging for subscriptions, or producing sponsored content. Looking at how much revenue you expect to generate can also help determine whether you’ll be hiring any writers or editors. A budget may also be necessary as a way to allocate resources.

Step 2: Select a platform

The most popular platform for local news websites is WordPress. In fact, more than one-quarter of the web—from bloggers to international media outlets—uses WordPress. Among independent publishers, specifically, WordPress has become popular because it’s low cost and easy-to-use. However, the specifics of your business plan will dictate which publishing platform is right for you.

When selecting a publishing platform, stick to those that offer flexibility and scalability. The last thing you want is to have to switch platforms right as your publication takes off. The best publishing platforms offer customizable designs, responsive sites, high security, and they’re SEO friendly.

Step 3: Choose the best plugins

Plugins will help expand the functionality of your WordPress website. Adding a plugin to a WordPress website is a way to gain access to a new feature without paying a developer to create that feature from scratch. For example, a publisher might use the Events Calendar by Modern Tribe plugin to add a fully responsive community calendar, or he might use the WooCommerce plugin to start selling physical and digital goods. Another popular plugin among online publishers is the Google Analytics plugin.

Check out this list of the top WordPress plugins for publishers for a more comprehensive look at how plugins can be used to improve the functionality of a local news site.

Step 4: Write valuable content

Once you’ve got a business plan in place and a website setup, it’s time to get going. Start putting together editorial content that aligns with your mission. Write articles, take photographs, and put together infographics or videos that will get readers excited about your publication.

Use the first few weeks as a testing period to determine whether you’re capable of putting together the content you envisioned on your own, or if you’ll need to hire outside writers and editors for help. Experienced writers will be able to write headlines with SEO in mind and put together content that impacts readers in a way that will drive traffic and boost readership.

Step 5: Start looking for advertisers

Advertisers will usually need to see a product before they agree to start advertising on your website, so hold off on looking for advertisers until you’ve started churning out editorial content at a regular pace. The specifics of your business plan will dictate where advertising revenue comes from. A few publishers will keep their websites as a personal hobby, and they can skip this step altogether. The vast majority of digital publishers will need to select an ad server before they can start accepting advertising. Many independent news publishers work with an ad serving solution like Broadstreet, while smaller bloggers tend to begin with Google AdSense before they branch out into more profitable avenues.

If you’d like to see examples of how others have gone about launching publications from scratch, check out publishers like Bklyner, Brentwood Home Page, and Baristanet. These publishers have all gone through the necessary steps to build thriving online businesses.

If you need help with any of the steps listed above, feel free to get in contact for a free video website evaluation.

Hyperlocal Publishers

The A-to-Z Guide to Membership Programs

As they look at declining ad rates, independent publishers are searching for new paths to financial sustainability. While there is no single solution that works for everyone, membership programs are growing in popularity among online news publishers.

Premium memberships aren’t the same thing as subscriptions or paywalls. Paywalls block access to content for visitors who haven’t paid to subscribe to a website. There was a time when people questioned whether paywalls could actually save journalism. The answer, however, appears to be no, as more local publishers have transitioned away from traditional paywalls in favor of the more enticing membership model.

Restricting access to content lowers page views and drives down advertising revenue. Paid memberships generate incremental revenue without limiting reach, but that doesn’t mean they’re giving away everything for free. The most successful membership programs emphasize value added extras for readers who are willing to pay a monthly or yearly fee.

Independent publisher memberships provide readers with extra benefits, sort of like a VIP room for loyal readers. The extra benefits publishers offer to their members might include things like premium video content, discounts at participating businesses, in-person access to reporters at meet-ups, or branded swag.

In order to develop membership programs that readers will actually want to join, publishers need to really get know their readers. What do readers want? What do they need? What types of rewards will motivate them to consider paying for a membership? Some publishers are conducting focus groups to find out this information, while others are having success posting queries to readers on their social media channels.

Here are more details about how publishers are structuring their membership programs.

Offering discounts for loyalty.

A publication’s longtime readers will usually become its first paying subscribers. Reward them for that loyalty. When The Atlantic launched its paid membership program, the Masthead, last September, the company offered a discounted bundle to early adopters that included both print and digital subscriptions to The Atlantic, in addition to exclusive content, discounts to events, and access to private social media pages.

Integrate calls-to-action to subscribe.

Calls-to-action encouraging readers to sign up to become members should be integrated throughout a publisher’s website. It’s not enough to promote the program with a banner ad or within a website footer. According to Mary Walter-Brown, CEO of News Revenue Hub, a nonprofit that helps journalism organizations with member recruitment, publishers should take advantage of fundraising software and include numerous calls-to-action to subscribe. That means giving readers multiple opportunities to donate on the website homepage, within each article, and in any email newsletters.

Walter-Brown also says it’s also important to “personalize the ask” by letting readers know what the publication stands for and how the publication’s journalism is impacting the lives of locals.

Finding new ways to utilize audience data.

A paywall requires visitors to pay for access to content, but data walls put an emphasis on personal information that’s not necessarily tied to a fee. Publishers who are utilizing data walls as part of their membership models are asking site visitors to provide information about themselves—such as email addresses, phone numbers, or demographic information—in exchange for access to premium content. With the right marketing and advertising strategies in place, publishers generate revenue from this data, either by using the information to re-target visitors or by selling it to brands and other outside vendors.

Maxing out the membership rewards.

Most readers won’t pay for something they were previously getting for free, so the benefits that publishers offer as part of their memberships need to be enticing. A few examples of the creative rewards that publishers are offering:

  • Discounts on bundled subscription packages that combine digital and print editions
  • Exclusive access to podcasts and articles available only to members
  • Conference call access to reporters and editors
  • Discounts to local events or businesses
  • Members-only Facebook groups
  • Behinds-the-scenes access to the newsroom
  • Free e-book downloads

Emphasizing audience participation.

A membership model positions readers as partners in the organization. In the words of Jay Rosen, NYU professor and director of the Membership Puzzle Project, which is researching sustainable solutions for the journalism industry, that means publishers with membership programs are “reporting with, not for,” their audiences.

When they adopt membership programs, publishers open the door for readers to engage with reporters and editors in integrated ways. Reader participation should be requested, and then based on that feedback publishers can make the necessary adjustments or changes to their membership programs. Participation can also lead to news scoops, since readers typically have their boots on the ground in local communities in a way that reporters and editors do not.

If you’re interested in launching a membership program, we’d be happy to help. Please reach out for more information about the solutions we offer at Web Publisher PRO.