Election guides aren’t just a public service. They can earn revenue, too.

How Ballotpedia can help you improve your voter guide next year – and build a strategy to monetize it.

January 10, 2023 by LION Publishers

I Voted stickers

This post is sponsored by Ballotpedia, which is piloting a new program to help publishers level up their voter guide and build a strategy to monetize it. Learn more and apply»

Election 2022 might be barely behind us, but it’s never too soon to start thinking about the next voting cycle, especially when there’s revenue on the line. 

Yes, revenue! From election coverage! 

That’s one of the goals for a new program led by Ballotpedia that will help local news publishers improve their voter guide – and build a strategy to monetize it. 

Thanks to funding from Arnold Ventures, Ballotpedia will select 10 publishers in 2023 to participate in a pilot program designed to help them build a top-notch election guide and sell sponsorships to underwrite the cost. 

In this Q&A, Ballotpedia COO Gwen Beattie shares more details about the new voter guide program, its timeline, and how to apply. 

What’s the inspiration for this program, and what are some of your favorite examples of voter guides produced by local independent publishers?

Fifteen years ago, Ballotpedia was founded to help voters understand ballot initiatives. Today, we cover politics and policy at every level, including elections in the country’s 100 largest cities by population and every state capital. 

As we continue to expand our coverage with the ultimate goal of ensuring that every voter has the chance to better understand their ballot and the candidates on it, we know we can’t do this alone. We see a major opportunity to help newsrooms across the country, particularly those outside major metropolitan areas, have access to the resources they need to produce more in-depth Local Voter Guides. 

These guides will bolster their existing offerings and give them specialized content to share with readers. At the same time, this gives candidates something that most don’t have at the local level: a platform to reach their communities directly.

As for favorite examples, Montana Free Press, SpotlightPA, and CalMatters all have voter guides that we admire.

How have you seen publishers earn revenue from their election coverage, and how will this program help participants emulate that success?

The New Jersey Globe produces a downloadable voter guide that it sells sponsorships and advertising against. This is the primary avenue for generating revenue through voter guides, and program participants will receive a sponsorship kit to help them secure sponsors for their voter guides, if desired.

What other support and resources will Ballotpedia offer program participants?

Participants in our pilot program will receive access to:

  • A Voter Guide implementation toolkit along with training on how to develop a guide
  • Best practices curated from independent newsrooms already creating voter/election guides
  • Voter Guide Sponsorship Kit and training
  • Graphic design and layout support
  • Candidate lists with candidate contact information
  • Template email language to conduct outreach to candidates and engage them in participating in any survey or questionnaires
  • Candidate responses to Ballotpedia’s Candidate Connection Survey for use in development of the voter guide
  • General planning and timeline support
  • Content and distribution strategies
  • 1-on-1 support from Ballotpedia

What’s the timeline for this program and how can publishers apply?

We will accept applications through January 31, 2023.  Newsrooms with elections (primary or general) happening on or before June 30, 2023 are eligible to apply and applications will be reviewed and considered on a rolling basis until the ten slots are filled.

LION offers sponsorships to software and service providers, educational institutions and other businesses that aim to serve independent news publishers like LION’s members. Learn more about our sponsorships policy and sponsorship opportunities at lionpublishers.com/sponsorship.

Sign up for the weekly newsletter

Join the LION mailing list to get our weekly roundup of opportunities and resources for news entrepreneurs. View our most recent issues.