Ad-supported news site
FOUNDERS and STAFF:
Full-time paid: One person — Bob Gough, editor, reporter, ad sales, business manager
Gough graduated from the Missouri School of Journalism in 1989 with a degree in broadcast journalism. Before starting QuincyNews.org, he was news director at a local NBC station. He was fired in October 2007. He had to decide if he wanted to move across the country and work somewhere else, or to stay in Quincy. “Quincy is my home,” he says. “I have a wife (who’s a teacher) and three kids. I got a couple of investors and developed a relationship with the local FM radio station.” WTAD, the radio station, wanted a Web site, but didn’t know how to put one together. A marriage was born. Gough had to decide how the organization would be different from the existing newspaper, radio and TV stations. “Watchdog journalism is what’s lacking here,” he says. “Local TV stations don’t have the manpower to do it. Small town newspapers don’t want to offend anybody. What we decided to do is local at city hall. We took a microscope on city hall.”
Partnership: The arrangement that Gough and WTAD worked out began with PyroGraphics, the company that built Quincynews.org, rebuilding the radio station’s Web site. News from QuincyNews.org automatically appears on the WTAD home page.
Freelancers: Gough has several people who freelance, and a person at the company who built his site does updating if Gough is out of town.
COMMUNITY SERVED: Quincy, Illinois, pop. 40,000. Gough has 9,000 unique visitors a month, 75 percent are from Quincy and Adams County. The local newspaper has a pay site with a free element that has about 20,000 unique visitors a month. The local NBC station has the largest audience of any local news site.
February 2008: Last 30 days, 42,000 visits, 9,000 uniques, 169,000 page views.
2008: Since April 28, 276,000 visits from 45,000 uniques making 1,000,000 page views, average time on site: almost 4 minutes. Gough’s goal had been 1,000 page views per day by the end of one year, and as of February 2009, it’s at about 1,500 per day Monday through Friday.
Number of times update site/day (including blog): Numerous
Number of days/week update: Seven
Community-generated content: About 25 percent of the site.
FOUNDED: April 28, 2008.
WHY: To shine a light on the community. “People read and support QuincyNews.org because they want their sunshine,” says Gough.
TURNING POINT: The flood of June 2008. Visits to the site went from 400 to 1400 a day. After the flood-waters receded, so did the numbers, but not back to 400…instead, to 700 a day.
Then, Gough did a story about how the city information technology director, who’d been hired without a background check, was illegally running the local youth soccer program out of city hall. Gough found out that he’d been convicted of computer fraud. “We did all these stories. The local newspaper refused to cover them. The same company owns two radio stations, newspapers, and the TV station. Our visits jumped up to 1700 a day.“
COMMITMENT TO THE COMMUNITY: 24/7 coverage.
NUMBER OF POSTS OR STORIES/DAY: Three to five written daily, links to dozens of fresh regional stories daily.
NUMBER OF DAYS FEED SITE/WEEK: Seven
SITE SECTIONS: Local, regional, business, sports sections with links to outside schools or team pages. Gough does a separate blog, and lists community blogs. Lists births and deaths. Gets a list of the births from hospital. Provide links to all the funeral homes.
MEDIA TYPES: Text, photos. No video, graphics, quizzes, or polls.
SOCIAL NETWORKING: Can email editor, add comments to stories, share the story on social networks, submit events, and submit articles. No forums, groups or member photos. Site brings in outside RSS feeds. QuincyNews.org has a Facebook page. Gough is starting to Twitter.
TOPICS COVER: Focus mostly on city hall and local politics.
PERCENT CONTENT FROM COMMUNITY: 25 percent.
WORK OF A JURNO:
Gough’s daily schedule:
7-10 a.m., updating;
10-2 advertising and business;
2-5 p.m. reporter, editor again.
Evenings: He covers meetings once or twice a week.
Participatory beat-blogging: As editor and reporter, Gough uses a combination of traditional stand-alone stories and blogging. “This is a news site,” he says. “I hate the term online newspaper, but that’s what it is. It’s not a blog. I do real news.”
Immediate and continuous. Gough will live-blog community events.
Contextual. QuincyNews.org follows several issues at the same time. Posts are categorized, so that people can review all in a category. The site also has a search function. If Gough is reporting on an issue that’s appeared previously, he links to previous posts, and provides some context.
Solution-oriented. Gough follows issues to their conclusion. It provides links within posts so that members of the community can contact people.Gough also encourages community members to become involved, and provides links to sites or people to do so. If a community member asks a question, Gough will find the answer. If another community member asks the same question in a comment, Gough will provide the link to the answer.
Appropriate choice of media: Right now, the site’s mostly text. Still photos appear in the stand-alone stories, but not in the blog posts (at least lately) Gough has plans to add video.
COMPETITION, NEWS: The Quincy-Herald Whig, WGEM-TV, and KHQA-TV pick up information from Quincynews.org, and vice versa. Gough says he can see when people who work at the TV stations and newspaper look at Quincynews.org, and that they pick up some news from him. Because he’s done enough muckraking stories about city hall, the mayor won’t returns his calls, so Gough will pick up a quote from the newspaper, and attribute it.
INCOME: April 28 – December 31, 2008. $55,250, all from advertising. Total expenses were $78,392. This includes start-up expenses of libel insurance, legal costs, and a Web site build, which totaled $24,000. Gough gave himself a salary of $33,934 for the eight months.
START-UP FUNDING: Two angel investors gave $25,000 to get QuincyNews.org off the ground. “My investors financed this because they’re concerned about the lack of watchdog journalism,” says Gough. “We haven’t talked about how much return they expect. They want some sunshine.”
ONGOING FUNDING: Advertising-supported. Currently, Gough has between 30 and 40 advertisers; he launched his news organization with nine.
Rate card: Display ads, $250 small, $400 large, top of the page $600 for a one-month run.
Advertisers: QuincyNews.org began with nine advertisers, people that Gough knew from his 20 years of living in the community. Gough’s goal was to have 20 by the end of one year. He now has 30 advertisers, and at times has had more than 40. This includes four restaurants owned by the same family and two car dealers.
Ad plans: Gough offer discounts if advertisers stay with QuincyNews.org for one year. One advertiser pays to be on all the pages. If an advertiser wants to pay $100 to be on half the pages, Gough will accommodate the request.
Ad production: Gough will produce an ad at no charge if the advertiser commits for three months.
Other: If advertisers don’t have a Web site, the company that built Gough’s site will build one for them, at a cost that depends on the complexity of the site. Gough’s been using coupons, which work well.
Quincy has four advertising agencies. Gough has a good relationship with two of those agencies, and has received business from them.
Web-based: Some radio ads with WTAD, and some billboards.
Community: Member, Quincy Chamber of Commerce
Google Adwords: Yes
Sponsors events: A local biweekly blues series outside Quincynews.org offices.
MONTHLY BUSINESS COSTS:
Content Management System: PyroGraphics with which Gough has a $400/month work-for-ad trade, and pays when Pyrographics goes over that amount. Pyrographics usually goes over by $200.
Web hosting: Adams Networks, $12/month
Staff salaries: Gough pays himself $1,000/week.
Equipment: Since startup, nothing significant.
ODDS ‘N ENDS
WHAT NEED MOST: “I’m ready for what’s next,” says Gough. “I want to put video on the site.” He has to figure out if he should hire another full-time person. “We have a lot of room to grow,” he says. “I want the help, collaboration, the knowledge to know what’s next.”
WHAT WOULD DO DIFFERENTLY: Start with two people. “Someone needs to be hitting the street full-time,” notes Gough. “Businesses are ready for something different in terms of their advertising.”
ADVICE FOR JURNOS WHO WANT TO DO THIS: Marry a saint with benefits.