From John Hassell – Star-Ledger, rapporteur for the News Efficiencies group.
We were the fun group — the cost-cutters.
Charged with finding new efficiencies for newsrooms, we struggled a bit to come up with a model that would produce useful lessons. Ultimately, we decided to focus on a market like Philadelphia or Dallas and, rather than tweaking the existing daily newspaper model, to start fresh with an online-only news organization.
Andrew Heyward of Marketspace LLC led the discussion, and we began with traffic and revenue assumptions, then worked backward to create a newsroom that fit within those limits. With Neil Budde of DailyMe doing the math on his iPhone, we projected a website with 800 million page views/year at $5 rpm, for total revenue of $4 million. We set aside $2.1 million of that revenue to pay an editorial staff of 35 FTEs $60,000/year.
Here’s how the staffing broke down:
-Content creators who do blogging/photography/video/curation of beats: 20
-Community managers who do outreach, mediation, social media evangelism: 3
-Designers/graphics artists: 2
-Producers who do site management, etc.: 5
There was a spirited debate about whether there should be a newsroom at all; in the end there was general consensus that staff members should be out in the community reporting as much as possible, but that a scaled-back newsroom provided a valuable space for collaboration.
Easier to agree on was a list of things our staff would not do:
In the areas of primary focus — local government, education, high school sports, etc. — we envisioned beat reporters working with networks of local bloggers to expand the reach of the staff.
We left questions about how to monetize all of this to the revenue group, but as Michael Rosenblum of Rosenblum Associates put it, “We’ve created a digital aquisition machine, and we find creative revenue opportunities based on that content.”