How Local Independent Online News Publishers Can Make Money on Mobile

Pot of goldThe best teacher is real-world experience.

Thanks to Joe Hyde, the publisher of San Angelo LIVE! in central Texas, we ran a mobile experiment for local news and learned some valuable lessons that can help local independent online news publishers make money. Lots of money.

Our hypothesis: Live mobile storytelling can benefit local media. Our test: Tell the story of the Lake ViewLubbock Cooper high school football game with one mobile-first app on an iPhone in real time. Run the live mobile story on the San Angelo website. Prove mobile journalism is a viable revenue driver for local indie online news publishers.

Joe put on his sports reporter hat (local indie online publishers wear many hats), created a story for the game with an app on his iPhone, embedded the story on sanangelolive.com/, drove to Lake View High School and headed straight to the sidelines.

Then, he told the story of the game with one app on his iPhone.

That story had over 45 pieces of media (videos, photos and text) and can be viewed in one feed right here.

The app was Evrybit and can be downloaded for free right here.

Lubbock Cooper won the game 59-20, but the big winner is local indie online news.

After the game, Joe and I shared our thoughts on the experiment during a postmortem phone call. The ideas were flying a mile a minute as we both saw all kinds of possibilities in mobile, local advertising and Evrybit.

1. What if we got every high school in the San Angelo area to use Evrybit to tell a game story each week? The West Central Texas High School Football Scores page on the San Angelo LIVE! site is one of the most popular pages on the site Friday nights. On this night, there were 38 games. That’s 76 schools, or 76 potential stories.

2. High school students, or community members, could produce the stories.

3. Each of those stories could have local ads run in them. The ads could be preproduced bits of contextual media — 15-second videos or audios hits, images, drawings for Bob’s Plumbing or Nick’s Auto Repair Shop. The ads could be seen on any device, and since they live in the story stream, they would be safe from ad blockers.

4. Ads could be created live during the game by local business owners, in the stands or remotely, on their phones. If it’s a close game, Vinny’s Pizzeria could offer a buy-one -pie-get-one-free deal to the winning team.

5. Advertisers could offer rewards to student reporters or community members to encourage participation and coverage of every game.

6. Scoreboards would come to life and go from being static box scores to dynamic characters. Time on sites would increase. Sites could sell sponsorships for an entire scoreboard page. Each game could have a sponsor.

7. Sell five ads per game story at $100 an ad. That’s $500 per story times 76 stories is $38,000. Add a few game or scoreboard sponsorships on top of that, and a local independent online news publisher could make $40,000 to $50,000 every Friday night. Repeat over a 10-game regular season. That’s $500,000. Split that number in half, throw in a few playoff games, and we’re still approaching a respectable neighborhood. And that’s just for football season.

8. This model could work for any community event that draws a crowd — an olive festival, pie-eating contest, the list of local gatherings is endless. And that’s just for advertising.

9. Think about ecommerce, micropayments, tips for media and a marketplace.

10. Local news was made for mobile, and mobile was made for local news. Get outside the press box. Get outside the newsroom. No matter how lean your editorial operation is, you can produce original content. Mobile keeps operation costs down, and moves bottom lines up.

San Angelo LIVE! and Evrybit are just getting started. Our first mobile experiment proved that live mobile storytelling can work for local online news. We plan to run more mobile experiments until we have a proven mobile-first profit model for local news that can be replicated by any local indie online news site in America.

Anyone is welcome to join us.

Photo: Jeremy Schultz/Flickr

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