Paying for local news: LION Summit tackles revenue, from membership to reinventing ads

By Matt DeRienzo | Aug. 22, 2017

Image courtesy of 401kcalculator.org.

How to pay for local journalism will be a key theme of LION's annual conference in Chicago Oct. 26-28, but not in theory only. Speakers, panels and workshops will present concrete, proven ways to grow revenue at local independent online news sites.

As always, there will be training and brainstorming sessions on building advertising support for local independent online news sites, led by former Denver Post Advertising Director Eleanor Cippel and veteran sales-oriented publishers including Kelly Gilfillan of Home Page Media in Tennessee, Jay Allred of Richland Source in Ohio and Scott Brodbeck of ARLNow and RestonNow in Virginia.

But new this year will be programs on developing revenue directly from readers. Mary Walter-Brown of the News Revenue Hub, and formerly Voice of San Diego, will talk about building a successful voluntary membership program at both nonprofit and for-profit sites.

Jay Senter of Shawnee Mission Post will talk about his success in launching a paywall after seven years of publishing local content for free. He reached 1,000 subscribers in three and a half months.

Sponsored content, native advertising and niche products will also be a big part of the program. Ted Williams, publisher of Charlotte Agenda in North Carolina, will talk about how the site reached $1 million in revenue within two years thanks to its job board, annual print city guide, and sponsored content on Instagram.

There will also be presentations on monetization of email newsletters, and on whether it makes sense to carry programmatic advertising on your site.

Ezoic’s Gavin Bechtold will discuss the correlation between user experience and digital revenue. He will highlight just how these two elements inexorably tied. Gavin will show which metric and markers are indicative of good user experiences and how this increase visitor value to advertisers both directly and programmatically. Lastly, Gavin will finish with a real world case study of how this all works in the real world. Ezoic is the sponsor of the opening reception for the summit.

David Walsh of Walsh Creative — the lead sponsor of the bootcamp workshops for new publishers — will talk about email newsletters as an easy-to-set up and low-maintenance revenue channel that is often underutilized. He'll provide a detailed overview of how to automate email newsletters with ads through RSS campaigns, using Google Analytics to determine optimal send times, and understanding metrics.

And Ebony Reed of the Reynolds Journalism Institute, and formerly the Associated Press, will talk about why journalists are well-suited to handle advertising sales - a transition that's familiar but has been painful at times for the many longtime journalists who have launched local independent online news sites.

New to the conference this year will be a "boot camp" for new publishers and idea-stage local news entrepreneurs on Thursday, Oct. 26, covering the basics of choosing between for-profit and nonprofit status, developing a business plan, adding new revenue streams, navigating technology platforms and software, editorial vision and audience development, and legal concerns.

Register for the 2017 LION Summit here. If you have questions, or are interested in sponsorship opportunities, contact LION Executive Director Matt DeRienzo, mattderienzo@lionpublishers.com.

Check out more entries in our 2017 conference blog »