I wish I knew: LION Publishers share their best ideas

A LION conference favorite - Publishers sharing their best ideas. This session was like a best practices round table, only

October 2, 2015 by Chris Krewson


LION Summit coverage by Carol Robidoux, Editor, Manchester Ink LInk

This session was like a best practices round table, only in a movie-theater setting, where the microphone was floated around the lecture hall to solicit the best ideas from local editors for boosting readership, advertising, revenue and, as a result, spirits of  those in the online news trenches who generally discover tricks of the trade by trial and error.

Read on and be inspired. We got about 21 ideas from the session.

Then, vote for your favorite idea – winner gets a $100 gift card.

(Scroll to the bottom to cast your vote!)


Dylan Smith | TucsonSentinel.com: Don’t be afraid of having someone with a voice on your site — especially for a site trying to maintain objectivity, recruit a blogger/metro columnist who is willing and able to call bullshit on government, entities, powers that be.

Brian Wheeler | Charlottesville Tomorrow: Partnered with local newspaper providing niche content (land use, transportation, community design,  and public education) in exchange for publishing services and distribution. For example, using piktochart.com to create an annual report, CT got the report printed by the paper, used it to wrap Sunday newspapers and adopted a “mascot” (Buddy the Newshound) to promote the information in upcoming mailings.  

David Boraks | DavidsonNews.net and CorneliusNews.net: Look for offline ways to promote your online site. Build readership and brand by posting  hard copies of stories in post offices or inside local shops. Also by leaving  handfuls of pens at local eateries which were then used by waitstaff to have customers sign checks and help get brand visibility going.

Fred Reed | Oswego County Today: Engaging readers and advertisers through seasonal giveaways by use of Visa Cash Cards  provided by a local bank in exchange for advertising, and then selling advertising around those give-away events. People log in and provide email and phone number to be in the running, and when they hit “submit” it takes them to a sponsor landing page.  

Wendy Cohen | Berkeleyside: Hire seasoned professionals. Experienced journalists/advertising professionals  know how to sell and build relationships and be assets to  a company.

Jesus Sanchez | The Eastsider: Take advantage of online Real Estate agencies like Redfin, go through new listings by zipcode and then identify Realtors for homes featured. Eastsider created a postcard using a local company ($50 for 1,000 postcards) and used it to let Realtor or new homeowners in the area know that Eastsider provides coverage of the area. This idea underscores the importance of a physical presence beyond online.

Marcie L. Setlow | The Berkshire Edge: Making sure the business community knows you exist by holding a business conference sponsored by a local bank resulting in 200 movers and shakers in the community who came together to discuss topics of economic development and what infrastructure was needed to support a  robust economy. There was high attendance and a local cable access station taped the event. Takeaway: Put us on the map quickly.

Daniel Myers | StateCollege.com: Selling in-story advertising for a special section, which is designed to be unblockable and sell it at a 10 percent SOV (share of voice) at $1000 per ad, which resulted in $10,000 in ad revenue.

Joe Amditis Center for Cooperative Media: Offer to live-stream events in the community using simple and affordable tools/web cam/iPhone laptop set up. Seek out groups without resources that are dealing with specific and important issues in the community.

Jan Schaffer | J-Lab:
•    Create an end-of-the-year calendar of the coolest tech start-ups
•    buy pizza boxes and plaster the lids with ads for your side.
•    Find local coffee shops who will program their wifi landing page to be your landing page

Sharon Swanepoel | Monroe Local News: Bought-out a local lifestyles magazine to add a print product to the mix and allow for crossover advertising packages and buyer’s guides.

Denise Lockwood | Racine County Eye: A quick meet-and-greet to get us in front of more advertisers in one place by partnering with a local restaurant doing an ad trade. Basically the restaurant will host and feed you in exchange for an ad, and 50 potential advertisers are invited to come hear a pitch about the site. About 15-20 attend, and it doubles as a good little networking event where business owners end up talking about what their interests are . For a 30-minute presentation investment the reward is 3-5 ad leads plus a stronger connection with local businesses. This can be done monthly. Also, connect with a local incubator space  and launch an Office Hours on Advertising 101 where you can help educate them about how to advertise their new business.

Kelly Gilfillan | Brentwood Home Page, Franklin Home Page: Healthy Challenge – find a way to organize your community to focus on better health by partnering with local gyms for 12-week challenge. Invited readers to participate for free with free club membership including trainers and support. They must find $1,500 sponsor to participate, participants blog about their experience weekly and must post on social media. Boosts your publication’s reputation as caring about the community, and can lead to more health-related content on the site, like a be-healthy guide.  

Olwen Logan | LymeLine.com: Obtain a table at large community festival and solicit prizes from local busineses/advertisers and hold a raffle. Entrants must provide email addresses to be in the running, and by doing so also agree to provide the email to newsletter lists for news site and also advertisers. Raises site visibility and boosts eNews circulation and advertising reach.

Doug Hardy | CTNewsJunkie.com: Find ways to monetize and integrate standing  features already on your site with advetising, like business directory and community calendar. Package them with  advertising. Essentially, if you are a member of the biz directory you receive an “agency rate,” which provides publisher with a base of advertising revenue just for members to be included. If you integrate your calendar with advertising products, users still get free advantage of listing events, but you will only promote or include in newsletter for a fee.  

Ed Litvak | The Lo-Down: Conduct crowdfunding for year-long coverage of a big issue in your coverage area, such as the survival of small business/mom-and-pop enterprises. Readers love these community businesses which are disappearing. In this case, the fundraising goal was 24,000; 28,000 was raised. More important than money was engagement with the community that occurred, not just with readers, but also potential advertisers.

David Yoder, RichlandSource.com: Use of a third-party app for crowdsourcing sports scores – scorestream. Instead of aggregating or culling scores from athletic directors/band boosters school by school, the app allows for uploads by users via mobile phone and provides publisher with an embeddable widget for live scores. Since use of the app, site traffic on Friday nights has increased by 30 percent and doubled on Saturdays.   


Darren Hillock, West of the I: After 2 years in the trenches, decided to expand with a second site. We learned a lot about why our other site was successful  by trying to add a site. Mostly it was a financial decision to pull the plug. Although no long-term damage, it was a good learning experience. [To that, Dylan Smith adds that small publishers should capitalize on their ability to experiment because there’s usually no long-term negative outcome – you just stop doing the thing that’s not working].

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