There is a lot of conversation around the idea that local news sites no longer have a place in our society. Facebook and Google have gobbled up all the market share.
I don’t think that’s entirely accurate.
The landscape for local media has changed.
There are two major problems with local media / news sites. These problems are about speed and revenue.
The Speed Problem
What happens is when there is a breaking news story, every news outlet tries to learn information and publish the story as quickly as possible. The first one to publish the story usually gets the wave of attention.
“You heard it here first” is a common tagline for news outlets.
That strategy is dead. No matter how fast a journalist can put an article together, they will never be faster than Facebook or Twitter.
A tweet can go viral and spread at 10X the rate of an article. Not to mention, this doesn’t even account for the regular people who have turned into quasi journalists by recording videos and taking pictures and posting it on social media.
That market is dead and dying, because the old news market used to depend on speed, but it’s impossible to be faster than social media because social is a culmination of everyone.
One person can’t outpace a swarm, especially over a long enough timeline.
The Revenue Problem
Local news sites mostly monetize through ads.
So if I have a news site in Nashville, it makes sense that I sell advertising to a local restaurant or realtor under the understanding that the people coming to a news site in Nashville would be interested in those services.
So what happens is the invective changes, because now the news site is incentivized to put as many eyes on that advertising as possible. So news sites turn into gossip sites because gossip gets shared.
But if I’m a local business in Nashville, I would personally be reluctant to buy advertising on a website that generates most of it’s traffic buy creating articles with mug shots, car crashes, city gossip, etc. The motivation for the people reading those articles isn’t in line with what the advertisers want.
So now the news site needs to spend more and more time and money generating sales which become less and less valuable. It’s a downward spiral.
The (Potential) Solution
I have always been so against the idea of putting advertising on a website, because it is so much more lucrative to have a product or a service that you can sell against the traffic.
But… I am going to give this a shot.
Years ago, I created a site call BigaDigest.com. The site was a real hit in Boca, the community loved it because the content wasn’t focused on speed, but rather focused on creating in-depth, thoughtful content that people in the community could find useful.
This content doesn’t have the same short lifespan because the subject matter is always relevant. So the search traffic continues to climb.
So I’ve solved for the speed problem, but haven’t solved for the monetization problem.
Truth is, I still don’t have a good solution here.
My initial idea was to create a local business directory, and create a business similar to the yellow pages. But that created two problems..
I would have to build an outbound sales team.
I would have to constantly deal with customer service from people who want to make changes to their directory listing.
What I need is a system where the site monetizes itself so I can remain fully focused on creating great content that will grow traffic numbers at a compounding rate.
When it’s all said and done, I am going to dance with the devil and put Google ads on the site.
However, this time I have a secret weapon.
My friend Blake is a pro at Google ads. He set me up with a script that displays the ads in the perfect placements throughout the content that generates the ideal match of maximizing revenue while not interfering with the experience of the website.
After spending all last week looking into this, I’ve determined that this can really work out. Here’s some simple math.
Google’s AdSense calculator says that if I can generate 50,000 page views a month, I could potentially make around $4,000 a month.
That backs in to about 1666 hits a day.
That’s not too difficult, especially if I continue with my strategy of going slow and creating long form content that will continuously generate more and more traffic over time through organic search.
I don’t think it’s plausible for me to create a 7 figure business out of these sites, but I think they can be easy and profitable with high margins and small revenue numbers.
Here’s the Reality
I’ve been working on YourBoulder.com for almost a year and a half. I have quadrupled the traffic, but I am hitting a road stop on monetizing. In order to sell localized custom ads to businesses, I need to have a sales team.
I have no desire to do that. But, the opportunity in these markets is so wide open. I need to keep trying to solve this riddle.
So, I put Google ads on Boca Digest. I am going with my gut here and experiment to see what happens. My goal is to generate 10,000 page views a month and if I can make even $800 a month, that will still be $650 a month cash money in my pocket.
It will cost me no additional time and the value of the content will create a system of scale.
At least, that’s the plan.
If it works, then I will replicate the process over and over again to create a small revenue, high profit margin business of local media sites.
The math checks out. I think I’m onto something. The determining factor will be if the ads crush the user experience.
Time will tell.