One of the major questions about news startups is where to get money. Entrepreneurial journalists worry about where to get the initial startup costs, how to pay for web development, hiring new employees and the conflict of interest they might have in writing about their advertisers.
This week, we read chapter two of Mark Briggs’ book, Entrepreneurial Journalism. This chapter, entitled, “Get inspired by success,” features many prominent and successful people who have created sustainable news startups. Some are based on certain topics like art or the environment, and some cover hyperlocal areas, but they all started with an idea, then faced financial challenges that the creators had to figure out.
The chapter outlined three options for this type of journalist to consider when it comes to advertising.
1. People will pay for quality content, but it is not a direct connection. The website operator can claim an audience once one is established from consistent quality, which appeals to advertisers.
2. Be truthful and upfront, and the money will come to you. Advertisers will come to terms with the fact that you may cover them in your news stories, but as long as you remain transparent about who is funding the site, your readers will trust you and remain loyal.
3. Experiment. Try a new business model. If the first one doesn’t work, try a different one. The money doesn’t all have to come from one place. Maybe a mixture of advertising and subscriptions would be best for your site.
I like the ideas that these three theories present. It seems that if they are used in conjunction with one another, they could prove to be profitable.
The chapter also addressed the idea that ads should pertain to the reader and the content. They products and services should be helpful to the readers, not something that they aim to avoid. Ads should be incorporated into the stories and should refer readers to some goods that they are interested in or are relevant to the information.
Check out TreeHugger, which Briggs mentions in the chapter and which aims to serve readers with appropriate ads.