Getting serious about hyperlocal, part 3: Money, money, money!

Parts 2 and 3 of this series covered legal issues and journalism. Now I’m going to cover that big elephant in the room: money.

Much (most, all?) of the hyperlocal efforts at the moment are voluntary, passion-driven projects. Many I’m sure cost only time; it’s easy enough to run a site on WordPress.com for free for example. However, plenty are paying for web hosting, travel, equipment and more. And while most hyperlocals aren’t for-profit ventures, it’s far better for them to be not-for-profit than anything else.

So how do they achieve this? Here are a few suggestions;

  • Advertising – e.g. using a system like Addiply
  • Business directory – like that in use on Visit Horsham
  • Estate agent listings – the newspapers do it, so why not us?
  • Job listings – same as above, why not?
  • Selling content – articles could be sold on to franchises like AboutMyArea, The Best Of or even local newspapers
  • Print version to be sold in shops
  • Classifieds (perhaps using Oodle)
  • Eating out guide, with restaurants given opportunity to enhance their listing for a fee
  • Entertainment guide with a similar option for venues
  • Sponsorship – for example, the sponsor of the local football team may sponsor all the posts about the club
  • T-shirt range – like BiNS is doing
  • Gifts & novelties – sell locally significant stationery, stickers, posters, flags, anything!
  • Lead generation for local businesses (thanks to Craig McGinty)
  • Targeted affiliate stories/advertising features that relate locally, e.g. to the local football team (c/o Craig McGinty again)
  • Swapping services for adverts (okay, not strictly making money but could pay/provide for much needed resources (via Ventnor Blog)
  • Market research (from Martin)

You might think, “Phil, why are you giving us all these ideas, surely this is stuff you should keep to your chest and make lots of money for yourself!” Maybe, maybe not but we need to get serious about making hyperlocal pay so let’s talk about it.

Share your thoughts and ideas in the comments and on Twitter #HLA.

25 thoughts on “Getting serious about hyperlocal, part 3: Money, money, money!”

  1. Another couple of ideas:

    – handing on focussed enquiries to business partners you work alongside e.g. financial services

    – targeted affiliate stores that offer products relating to local area e.g. football teams

  2. Cheers Craig, I’ll add them to the list. Interestingly the latter never crossed my mind because for Lichfield Blog we wouldn’t consider anything like that. Why is for a much bigger discussion…

  3. Nice list.

    Affiliate marketing might be interesting, see hyperlocal.co.uk. But the main thing is targeting your coverage and patch to a specific market.

    If you want to see examples of models that work commercially, then look at the US.

    Baristanet and West Seattle Blog are both good examples. I’ll be publishing some research on this soon at my blog.

    The biggest single lesson, however, is have someone selling the advertising! you can’t do it without a person hammering the phones.

  4. Just took a look at Addiply – I’m always interested in Ad networks etc.

    You might find if you are technically proficient that it’ easier to use Google Ad Manager (It’s like an Open X ad server) – Where you get 100% control over it. Plus 100% of revenue.

    Also you have the choice to fill in the space with Google Ads if you not serving anything in the space

  5. Good to get a list going.
    It could be argued that some of these ideas are the sort of time-consuming/experience-needed schemes which require the type of infrastructure that has been built-up and is now being broken-down at local newspaper groups.
    Oh and, of course, the idea of a printed product in local shops…

  6. Neil,

    I think you hit the nail on the head – IF you are technically profficient… and I’m not sure people have the time, the energy, the inclination or, above all, the cash to make sure that they are…

    That’s why we try to make Addiply as simple as possible so people like Josh (Halliday) can take it off the shelf and run…

    http://sr2blog.com/?p=286

    best etc

  7. @Neil – I think Rick is right on the simplicity… Ad Manager is powerful but I’m not convinced hyperlocals want so much functionality. They just need something simple that works which is why I like Addiply. Being able to use AdSense when you don’t have any advertisers is very interesting though…

    @Busfield – My thoughts exactly, this isn’t really new stuff in my mind, it’s replicating what the newspapers have done for years but on the hyperlocal level.

  8. Unfortunately WordPress.com still do not permit ads on their blogs see http://en.support.wordpress.com/advertising/
    advertising therefore is not an option for their sites.

    I think this is disappointing because there is something liberating and empowering about community groups getting online and finding a voice – all relatively easy, literally in minutes and for free! But to sustain this quite often requires time and effort spent by people to be paid for.

    The answer is to move over to a web-hosted service eventually – but I would regret losing this “I can do this; and so can you!” approach which I do believe is so empowering!

  9. Hi Philip

    Thanks for the mention of Visit Horsham.

    We are very soon about to launch another feature which businesses have indicated they may be prepared to pay for in addition to their basic subscription.

    I will post more here when we are up and running

  10. Just a bit confused. Is it only if you have a wordpress.com blog that you’re not allowed ads? But if you’re running wordpress on your own domain/hosting e.g. as on blogpreston.co.uk then it’s okay to take advertising?

    Ed

  11. This touches on both Warren’s post and your second suggestion of a business directory. At alderleyedge.com we are keen on getting users to register – it allows us to develop a relationship and periodically draw them back to the site with email newsletters. In return we also provide access to a few things non-members can’t access.

    We also have on the site a business directory where businesses are listed for free. Going forward we are looking at providing a business membership which we will charge for that will provide a number of benefits. Ideas include allowing them to enhance their listing (photos, videos, marketing blurb), promote special offers to members, respond to user reviews (in context on the site) etc. You could also give them access to an exclusive business forum – sort of a virtual local business group. Also having a business only membership group helps segment your audience and gives you the ability to provide very targeted advertising to B2B businesses.

    A second suggestion that could generate some revenue is local market research.

  12. Classifieds is perfect fit for hyperlocal sites. You could argue that finding out about an upcoming event or a house round the corner coming onto the market is news in itself. I’m the General Manager of http://www.oodle.co.uk, the UK’s largest index of classifieds content. We’d love to work with local sites to

    1. Enhance their local content with ours via our API (http://developer.oodle.com) or widgets

    2. Provide a new revenue stream for these sites by sharing the money we make from the clicks to our listings

    If anyone is interested feel free to email me at duncan@corp.oodle.com

  13. Hi Duncan

    Oodle sounds interesting but your website implies a minimum of 10000 referalls a month to qualify for the affiliate program.

    That sounds like a lot for a hyperlocal site.

  14. Oodle is something I’ve already looked at Duncan. I may be in touch about that API soon to develop something for WordPress – unless there’s already something out there you know of?

  15. Great list, Phil.

    This is why I love hyperlocal journalism. There are no rules. As I said to someone else, it’s a blank canvas.

    It just takes a touch of creativity and some initiative, and you’re laughing.

    There’s a lot of opportunity and I can’t wait to see HLJ evolve.

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