The state of hyperlocal

newsTow-Knight just released a new survey of the state of business at hyperlocal sites, conducted by Michele McLellan, creator of the authoritative Michele’s List.

The bottom line remains: This is a tough business. A third of them bring in more than $100,000 a year; the rest under. Almost half are profitable and another quarter have a steady flow of income. Most are heavily dependent on advertising. The good news, as far as I’m concerned: Many have hired business and sales help.

This is important work, for as I wrote in Geeks Bearing Gifts, I believe that beat businesses can be a building block of broad new news ecosystems in communities. This is why we now support Michele’s List at Tow-Knight. This is why we just held training for new beat businesses here. This is why I work with the Dodge Foundation in New Jersey on helping to support and build the news ecosystem in my home state. We need more training in business to bring these journalists running beat businesses to sustainability. But as Michele shows, this is also hard work, damned hard work.

Michele suggests possible areas for further research. I will argue to foundations that care about healthy news ecosystems that they should help support their growth by giving seed grants and funding training for new beat businesses. I hope other journalism and business schools will help train these brave entrepreneurs who care about their communities.

  • The real challenge is the business side of things. I launched my site about six or seven months ago and we’re starting to do ok, but the thing I credit with fairly quick stability? Years as a small-town weekly publisher (I also was a publisher/GM of dailies).

    As a publisher of a weekly where the staff was myself and those two, I had to write, layout pages, repair racks, sell ads, direct sales, develop sales and editorial plans, budget, forecast/flash, sweep the floors and everything in between. It was the best training for what I’m experiencing now.

    You’ve preached it and are taking a proactive role in doing something about it, but many journalists simply aren’t prepared to be business owners.