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Show Me The Money: 5 Tips for Online News Site Success

Show Me The Money: 5 Tips for Online News Site Success

Picture of Barbara Feder Ostrov

online news, reporting on health, noozhawk, long beach post, oakland local

Online-only news sites may be , but whether they're making any money is another question.  has modeled , but is it enough to live on?

Today, three owners of online news ventures shared their adventures, mistakes and successes in online publishing with Online Health Journalism Fellows meeting in Los Angeles.  , whose day job involves government affairs consulting for local chambers of commerce, publishes the , an online competitor to the Long Beach Press Telegram. Bill Macfadyen, an online health journalism fellow himself, publishes , which covers Santa Barbara, Calif., news. Susan Mernit publishes and is mentoring the online health journalism fellows.

Here are some of the lessons these news entrepreneurs have learned the hard way.

1. Think of yourself as a publisher, not a journalist or editor. Join the boards of community organizations. Network and schmooze more than you want to. Susan Mernit said this has been one of her biggest challenges: "I really didn't understand how much selling (advertising) locally is a trust and personal relationship business. I learned the hard way that I need to walk around and talk to people. You really have to go out and hit the pavement."

2. Learn from your failures. Lumachi has had his share, as detailed in this excellent and detailed case study of his business model for the Long Beach Post produced by the USC-Annenberg School for Journalism & Communication. "Brutally frank," he calls it.  

3. Consider a print product as a marketing tool. For $3,400 monthly, about a third of what it costs to buy a billboard ad in Long Beach, Lumachi can distribute 25,000 print copies of the Long Beach Post in 260 stores as a way of advertising his website. Only one story is unique to the print edition; the rest are available online. "It's very effective," Lumachi said, noting that the online product drives the print edition.

4. Change, often, but keep doing the things that work. "We embrace change like it is our best friend," Lumachi says. He estimates that the Long Beach Post makes significant changes to its business model every six weeks, with the most dramatic example being the new monthly print version.

5. Chase money, not prestige or journalism awards. Noozhawk founder William Macfayden said he thought his first publishing venture, the South Coast Beacon, was a success because "everyone kept telling me how good it was." But it folded because local advertisers did not support it. "I don't care how many people tell me it's great, I say, ‘show me the money,'" Macfayden says. "We can't survive otherwise."

In this video, Shaun Lumachi talks about what he's learned and offers advice for online news entrepreneurs:


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At least at first glance this is depressing

Picture of Eve Harris

I get a little queasy just by scanning this. I have no time, of course, to read it thoroughly. Working as a medical content aggregator I'm on 24-hour deadline. That's ironic. Barb - I'm sad to say I can't tell if your headline "Show Me The Money: 5 Tips for Online News Site Success" is ironic or not. I may not be ready for step #5, but I will do this: I will learn from my mistakes. For * my * career steps #1 and #5 still sound like mistakes. Anybody else?

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