The Little Newspapers that Could: Small, Digital Papers Turn a Profit

There is still room for success in digital news. Small, local online sites are actually seeing growth in this challenging environment.

Survey Says…

A recent survey of online local news sites shows that 62% of publishers saw an increase in year-over-year revenues in 2013. Less than a quarter (23%) reported no change and only 15% saw a decline in revenue.

For those news sites that saw an increase in revenue, the average increase was 49%. Half of those responding to the survey reported that they had doubled their revenue.

SEE ALSO: Does Hyperlocal Work?

While so much of the news industry is currently struggling, how is it that these little news sites can experience such healthy growth? One way is by hiring an aggressive ad salesperson.

Baltimore Fishbowl

Baltimore Fishbowl is one of those sites that doubled its year-over-year revenue. According to publisher Susan G. Dunn, the site was able to accomplish that growth by bringing an ad sales person on board.

The sales person was hired from a local weekly, and so already had established business relationships with local advertisers. According to Dunn, the ad sales person cost the company a lot of money in commission, but the return on investment was worth it. The sales person was able to recruit new advertisers for the site.

In fact, the effort was so successful that Dunn has hired a second ad sales associate. While she notes that the company needs to look for additional avenues of income, she wants to focus on advertising for now.

Baltimore Fishbowl currently has over 100 advertisers, but only about 20 on the site at a time. Dunn says that the site doesn’t have nearly enough advertisers, especially when compared to similar sites, such as The Batavian and West Seattle Blog.

However, Baltimore Fishbowl also follows the “give the people what they want” maxim. As an example, the site features a literary editor. Why? Because Baltimore, according to Dunn, is “filled with writers and academics.” Some of those people are looking for ways to share their work. Baltimore Fishbowl gives them that opportunity.

Also, Baltimore Fishbowl covers the private school community. Dunn says that the public schools receive plenty of coverage from other media channels, such as The Baltimore Sun. She also notes the site has more readers with kids in private schools than in public schools.

Baltimore Fishbowl receives about 50,000 unique views every month, according to Dunn.

The example of Baltimore Fishbowl and other smaller news sites make it clear that there is still a market for local digital news. While the big names in media are still struggling, local sites are quietly growing.

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