Resource Guide for Local and Niche Sites: Business

One of the goals of the New Business Models for News Project is to help local sites grow into sustainable operations. Toward that end, we’ve identified some of the best sources of information about a variety of business topics relevant to running a small website.

MORE: Editorial, Technology, Legal sections. Back to Resource Guide Home Page.

The resource guide was compiled by Jordan Shakeshaft and Alex Abad-Santos. Funded under grants from the Carnegie Corporation of New York and The Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism.

Small Business Basics
Starting Up and Managing
Advertising Sales
Other Revenue Sources
Audience and Advertiser Research

Small Business Basics
• Visit the U.S. Small Business Association website for a complete step-by-step guide to help you plan and manage your business.

• The New York Times’ Small Business Guide has all the information about small business that’s fit to print.

• Templates for business plans and financial worksheets are available at SCORE, a nonprofit association dedicated to educating entrepreneurs and helping small businesses start, grow, and succeed nationwide.

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Starting Up and Managing
• Download a customizable spreadsheet created specifically for hyperlocal sites and plug in your own numbers. Download the Google spreadsheet. (To make changes, click File>>Make a copy or File>>Export.) Or download the Excel Spreadsheet. More about the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism’s New Business Models here.

• A comprehensive how-to guide from the J-Lab covers all aspects of starting and operating a hyperlocal site.

• Here are Mel Taylor’s 7 Habits of Profitable, Hyperlocal Sites.

10 key lessons for hyperlocal journalism startups from Pekka Pekkala in OJR: The Online Journalism Review

• Good and sobering advice from the founders of two major hyperlocal efforts that ultimately couldn’t sustain themselves:
Mark Potts: Backfence: Lessons Learned
Ted Mann: Lessons Learned From InJersey

• The J-Lab and the Knight Community News Network report on what’s worked and what hasn’t at the community news startups they’ve funded over the last five years. See page 7 of New Voices: What Works for 10 key takeaways.

Required Reading: If you’re running a small site, you need to check out Streetfight, which covers “the business of hyperlocal news, information and advertising.”

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Advertising Sales
• Learn how to plan, package, price, and sell local advertising: “The ethical journalist’s guide to selling ads on a website” by Robert Niles in OJR: The Online Journalism Review.
Part one
Part two
Part three

• Get tips for selling online ads in this seven-part series from Trafficspaces.

• On, Bill Mitchell shares 11 key takeaways from a Borrell Associates conference on local advertising.

• The CUNY Graduate School of Journalism’s highlights some new advertising resources available to small web publishers.

• Plenty of useful tips and techniques about how to monetize hyperlocal sites can be found on Steve Johnson’s Hyperlocal Blogging.

• Mel Taylor Media is all about “online revenue and digital strategy for hyperlocal media.” Here’s Mel’s presentation on “Pricing Your Online Ad Inventory.” Lots more about ad sales on Mel’s site and his blog.

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Other Revenue Sources
• Steve Buttry describes how multiple revenue streams – including events and daily deals – can add profit, help bolster brand visibility, and boost traffic.

• Here’s’s overview of non-advertising revenue opportunities, including coupons, e-commerce, paid content, and mobile apps.

• Get tips on how to compete locally with big-time coupon delivery services like Groupon.

• Adding a Deals section to your site increases revenue and extends marketing.

• spotlights ad networks, alliances, and exchanges in the new online ecosystem.

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Audience and Advertiser Research
• The Medill School at Northwestern conducted an extensive study on “Reimagining Hyperlocal News.”
Download their “cookbook” for useful info about how to conduct audience and advertiser research

• Here’s how to put together an effective reader survey from J-Learning.

Google Analytics provides tools to measure audience and generate reports.

• More on audience metrics from the J-Lab and Knight Community News Network.

• Turn Judy Sims’ “10 questions to ask-potential advertisers” into a survey that you can use when you talk to local businesses.

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• J-Learning explains traditional methods of how to promote your site.

• Hyperlocal Blogger provides some concrete examples of how to employ traditional marketing techniques in an online environment.

“Leveraging Social Media for News Sites” is a practical guide to using Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, Tumblr, and Foursquare for both editorial and marketing purposes. The learning module was put together for the Knight Community News Network by Susan Mernit, Editor of the Oakland Local, along with colleagues Kwan Booth, Senior Community Manager, and Amy Gahran, Senior Editor.

• Mashable gives its take on how to optimize your Facebook page.

• A lot of so-called marketing wizards say they can help your site with Search Engine Optimization (SEO) but the best place to start is with Google itself.

• And while you’re at it, take a look at all of Google’s business solutions for websites.

• The basics of SEO from HyperlocalBlogger.

• Nobody knows search like Danny Sullivan and Search Engine Land.

SEO Book is all SEO, all the time. Keep up with the latest search news on their blog.

• Latest SEO advice from a panel at 2011 SXSW.

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