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Nub News: an emerging scalable model for hyperlocal and local news

There’s an acute challenge for hyperlocal news. Local businesses are perfectly adept at connecting with their own audiences on major platforms. They rely on Facebook, Instagram and Google for their distribution, making the local rag redundant. There’s also the issue of scale. How do you make a scalable model that can stay lean but offer rich and relevant insights for communities to emerge a viable business model.

Nub News is attempting to carve out a model that sits between the major national publishing houses in the UK, such as Reach’s answer to hyperlocal In Your Area, and the independents — many of which are part of the Independent Community News Network: one man or small team operations operating unique business models to their niche. …


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Cornwall Reports uses subscriptions and casual payments as its revenue model

Cornwall Reports has been behind a hard paywall since it launched in 2016. It has 600 subscribers mostly paying £30. Alongside the use of casual payments — which contribute 1% of total income — it presents growing evidence that in the right environment, it’s possible to get people to pay for independent local and community news.

Graham Smith, who runs CornwallReports.co.uk, started with a clear business case. He calculated there were 570,000 in Cornwall and around two thirds of them were people of voting age and of those 15% were reasonably engaged, enough to turn out on a rainy day to vote. This calculation allowed him to anticipate a possible 80–90,000 target audience and working on just 1% of them becoming a paying subscriber would return his annual income target of around £30,000. “ I would not have been able to start off this business model in my early 20s but I can keep things cheap to run and no big bills and also the tech came right at just that right moment with fibre broadband. …


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Who is making any money from news as an independent publisher?

Since benchmark data was gathered by academics in 2014 on annual income for independent and hyperlocal media in the UK, I’ve been keeping a close eye on what are realistic returns. Most are one-man bands or small teams, operating on self-service platforms such as Wordpress complemented with social media. With average monthly unique users of 30,000, they are an increasingly vibrant and concrete part of the UK media ecosystem. But what are realistic earnings?

The benchmarking data in 2014 was produced by Williams, A., Barnett, S., Harte, D., & Townend, J. The state of hyperlocal community news in the uk: Findings from a survey of practitioners. Birmingham City University, University of Westminster, Cardiff University, Arts and Humanities research council, Creative Citizens. The same data has been used in many book chapters and journal articles since. Out of a sample of 62, the authors found 23 sites generated less than £100 and 14 generated £1000+ per month. …


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UK independent and hyperlocal news media remain an undervalued part of the UK news supply chain

We have been working on a project called Ping! Trends which is a collaboration between the University of Central Lancashire in Preston and Omni Digital in Bristol. The aim of the project is to bring specifically tagged and themed hyperlocal journalist’s stories together to offer more opportunities to generate revenue from them. We want to pump prime hyperlocal content into the wider news ecology supply chain to generate new revenue streams.

The aim for Ping!-Trends:

  • Better enable the surfacing and grouping of news stories created at community and hyperlocal level against tags and locations. …


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Editorial staff at Citydog.by working through a 100 day trial to innovate revenues for their site in Minsk, Belarus

Decision making is one of the biggest challenges when it comes to web-indigenous revenue models. What should we try? Should we do a membership model? Shall we do events? These are all questions I get asked by independent and community media on a regular basis. The challenge is how — in small teams and for those predominantly with a journalism or activist background rather than business — do you decide which revenues to try.

One solution is to use a 100 day framework. Both myself, and Axate — micropayment specialists — have been using this as a way to work with media organisations to funnel choices around revenue decision making. The aim is to innovate methods to drive innovation and support news media to make good revenue choices. We’ve developed our methods independently, but the common theme is 90-100 days. In that time, media can work through fixed steps and make genuine evaluations on performance and build an evidence base to see where opportunities may lie. It’s short enough to be agile. It’s flexible enough to adapt. It’s long enough to give solid evidence on which to inform decisions. Entrepreneurs deal with incomplete information and uncertainty. They often rely on intuition. Scott Shane’s the master of articulating that in his book A General Theory of Entrepreneurship.


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Belarusian media exploring ways forward to re-model revenues through innovation

Media executives in Belarus championing independent and web-indigenous journalism are faced with added challenges to the online revenue model. Not only do they need to combat squeezed ad revenues from dominant social media platforms but they exist in a weakened political economic market. From my work with 16 media in the country*, here are a few of the contextual issues being tackled — and some experimental solutions.

Contextual challenges

Russia’s increasingly assertive, or even aggressive, behaviours such as the disregard for international law, the continuation of coercive passportization, and other repressions against residents of the temporarily occupied Crimea, meddling in Ukraine, intervening in Syria and even more recently in the Central African Republic suggest a deliberate undermining of liberal values at a time of global retreat by powers such as the United States. …


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The journey from Reader Relationships to Reader Revenues

The limitations of indirect funding models via advertising and transaction based funding models for journalism are shifting focus to extend audience engagement and trust with an associated commitment of financial support. In 2013 — local news paywalls were a total disaster so what has changed in six years? Reader revenues is a catch-all for the diversified strategies open to publishers wanting to convert reader relationships into revenues. There are a diversified range of reader revenues. These include: micropayments, paywalls, subscriptions, donation models, action investments, membership models, crowdfunded investments and cooperative ownership. …


I am keen to help independent journalism outlets optimise their revenue diversification strategies. A focussed portfolio of revenue streams is a critical part of that. Knowing that for community-driven news organisations, reader revenue is an increasingly popular business strategy I have been developing a new methodology to better understand and explore ways to convert audience relationships into revenues. I have written here about the process of developing the Reader Revenue Toolkit.

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Reader Revenue Toolkit during the editing and final layout process

The toolkit offers a springboard to explore the different stages of readiness that organisations need to be at as a relation with their community, content and business development to make the different reader revenues work. …


Alongside Dr Rob Watson and Dr Jennifer Jones we have been working with Internews Europe to develop a Strategy for Resilient Local, Civic and Community Media. The overarching question is how can we can best support and build a resilient set of networks that can sustain, advocate and demonstrate the social and economic value of community media. The report, which will be out soon, will provide a snapshot of the policy discussions that shape the community and civic media landscape, and will look at how community broadcasting, civic journalism, hyperlocal media, and participant-driven media, at a local and neighbourhood level, can find a proper place within the policy making process. …


Optimising a focussed portfolio of revenue streams is a critical part of resilient journalism business models. For community-driven news organisations, reader revenue is an increasingly popular business strategy. More newsrooms across Europe are shifting their focus to direct- compared to in-direct models. However, sometimes the exploration of what reader revenue can look like for a given organisation doesn’t go much beyond choosing one of the traditional tried-and-tested approaches (membership, subscription or crowdfunding). So we set about developing a new methodology to better understand and explore ways to convert audience relationships into revenues.

What we describe here is a step by step of how I developed a Reader Revenue Toolkit. …

About

Clare Cook

Niche revenue models for independent media. Business. Resilience. Diversification. Innovation. @cecook www.mediainnovationstudio.org www.clarecookonline.com

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