The biggest priority of any local news site is most likely driving revenue in order to stay in business. Many local news sites run solely on ad revenue through banner ads. Cluttering up their pages with sometimes distracting advertisements might bring in the money they need to stay afloat, but is this the best way to keep local news sites around in the future?
The New York Times has shown that a paywall model is more beneficial then ever, and are trying their best to close loopholes around this method. Forcing their readers to pay in order to read their content is a way to not only drive revenue, but also reduce the amount of annoying ads. This in turn also drives up newspaper circulation, making the ads that do appear on the site more and more appealing to advertisers.
But how does the business model of a paywall apply to a local or hyperlocal news site? Their readership is often a fraction of big sites like The New York Times, so how do they justify such a move? I would like to think of a paywall on a local news site instead as a “donor wall.” Most smaller independent news sites probably can’t afford to lock out a large portion of their content to their readers. The reason is because they would likely lose their readership as people move over to another, just as credible, local news site for free. By making the paywall more like a donation, local news sites can provide extra content to their readers without sacrificing existing stories and content.
Think of it this way: what if instead of paying $5 a month for the privilege of a no article limit, you instead pay a one time donation of $50. This donation would include benefits such as exclusive reader interaction with the news company in the form of exclusive online Q&A’s and chats, significantly less ads visible on the site and heck, even a t-shirt for good measure.
In an ever-changing landscape for online news, especially for local and hyperlocal news outlets, there has never been a better time to start thinking outside of the box about potential ways to drive revenue online.