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June 9, 2015, 12:03 p.m.
Business Models

Crowdfunding, revenue diversity, and legalese: Some takeaways from the LION Publishers conference

Here’s some of what what discussed at the semiannual gathering of Local Independent Online News Publishers.

I spent this past weekend in Philadelphia at the Local Independent Online News Publishers conference with local journalists and publishers from around the United States. Speakers discussed everything from online audience trends, revenue generation ideas, and how to deal with prickly legal issues. Josh Stearns, director of journalism and sustainability at the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, put together a great Google Doc of notes summarizing the conference, but here are a few highlights. If you want to read more of what was discussed, check out the hashtag #lion15 on Twitter.

Tips for a successful crowdfunding campaign

Charlottesville Tomorrow, a 10-year-old nonprofit covering Charlottesville, Va., is currently in the midst of its third-ever crowdfunding campaign. Its first two helped the site map out a local road improvement project and boost its education coverage. Its current campaign is aimed at creating a mobile-friendly website.

Brian Wheeler, the site’s executive director, and Dylan Smith, the editor and publisher of the Tucson Sentinel, gave a talk highlighting strategies to launch successful crowdfunding campaigns. Among their tips: Back other projects to show potential donors that you’re committed to the community. Also, don’t spend too much on the rewards. Wheeler said that in Charlottesville Tomorrow’s previous campaigns, up to 47 percent of donors didn’t want any of the gifts that were offered to those who contributed.

Experiment with new revenue opportunities

Jay Allred, publisher of the Richland Source in Mansfield, Ohio, detailed some of the efforts his site has undertaken to generate revenue and attract readers and advertisers.

Last year, for instance, the Source started Made in the 419 — an apparel and clothing line that celebrates northwestern Ohio. Made in the 419 sells pint glasses, and whenever the Source sells an ad to a new client, Allred takes some glasses and some beer to the client to thank them. Allred said that 90 percent of the site’s revenue comes advertising — most of it with local companies.

Understand legalese

Jan Schaffer, executive director of J-Lab, gave an overview on important legal issues that digital news startups face. She addressed things such as copyright law, the requirements to get nonprofit status from the IRS, and how to deal with unpaid interns.

All of the issues Schaffer addressed are covered in depth in a legal guide she coauthored with attorney Jeff Kosseff.

Photo of a different sort of lion conference by David Dennis used under a Creative Commons license.

POSTED     June 9, 2015, 12:03 p.m.
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