Ultralocal news must come cheap

In my last post I wondered aloud why Fitzroyalty blogger Brian Ward chose not to include advertising on his blog. He promptly commented by saying that he believes advertising is ugly and off-putting for his audience members, especially since the majority of his readers receive the blog via RSS, rather than via the site.

Apparently, there’s a school of thought that “ultralocal” websites offering information to extremely specific local communities are not financially sustainable.  Blog Talk About Local claim that “if you are ultralocal or hyperlocal enough to be interesting to your community you are almost by definition serving an audience niche too small to be funded by advertising.”

With only a few exceptions, it is hard to see how solo ultralocal or hyperlocal sites can support a paid member of staff (at the very lowest £25k inc overheads).  So unless new sources of funding arise, a conventional paid for journalist model looks unlikely at an ultralocal level.  The only way to gather hyperlocal news for an industrial era news model is by tapping into a volunteer base to write news for you.

And Fitzroyalty agrees. In hyperlocal media is a bad competitor Ward writes, “I want to turn their world upside down and destroy [traditional print media’s] business models as I provide a valuable but free service to the Fitzroy community”.

All of this got me thinking about Chocrock‘s business model. Up until now we thought that advertising would cover the cost of overheads and journalists’ fees. I’m starting to doubt that. I’m thinking that perhaps we can ditch the idea of advertising. It would have cheapened the site and cast doubt upon our credibility as unbiased reviewers. Instead, we’ll make the site more community-built. Fellow Melburnian chocolate fans can add content to the site. We’ll encourage this by offering a gift voucher or other give-away from one of the companies we are linked to like Haigh’s, Max Brenner or Chocoholic Tours.

There was an interesting article in The Age online called Newspapers online a ‘fast track’ to history which talks about how the digitisation of old newspapers means easy access into the past. The National Library of Australia’s goal is to add 4 million regional and metropolitan newspaper pages to the existing 3.5 million stories in the system, creating “a single searchable internet portal by 2011”. This is yet another benefit of online media!

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