As most readers probably know, the news business has changed a lot the last couple of decades and is still changing rapidly. It costs very little to distribute content online, but advertising revenue for many print and online news organizations is not enough to cover the labor costs of time-consuming investigative reporting, especially at the local level.
Bailiwick News (and the precursor blogs I’ve written since 2005) are part of an experiment in micro-journalism, as reporters and editors around the world try to figure out new business models that can sustain local civic reporting in the present and future.
The skills required for investigative reporting are very different from the skills required for marketing, and I’m the first to acknowledge that my marketing skills are painfully limited. So, it’s not too surprising to me that since launching last September, Bailiwick News has inspired a total of 19 paying reader-subscribers.
I appreciate that support tremendously: those dollars have helped pay for photocopies of paper newspapers for downtown State College distribution, Right-to-Know document copying fees, business insurance and other overhead costs.
And I feel a very deep sense of obligation to continue providing readers with in-depth, contextualized, data-supported reporting on crucial Centre County public issues.
I’m proud of the work I’ve done during my first year, and am now planning my second year of Bailiwick News publishing.
I’ll be making some changes to experiment some more.
The publishing year will again run from September to June, because that academic year schedule seems to work well. I’ll continue with my paid part-time job (15-20 hours per week since April), to bring in steady income supporting my family and Bailiwick News overhead costs.
This second year, I plan to work on three main series, including:
- further coverage of Centre County court corruption and the District Attorney transition,
- further coverage of Centre County watershed management planning and
- further coverage of State College area zoning and land use planning, the latter two in the context of Penn State enrollment-driven population growth and regional carrying capacities.
At this time, I’m doing research on other micropayment systems, through which general public readers would be required to pay about 25 cents per article to access and read my work. One example of this “iTunes for news” model is Blendle; other companies are beta testing in US markets. I’m skeptical that readers will pay on a per-issue basis, even if the information purchased isn’t available elsewhere for free. It’s just another business model I might try.
As I choose and put a new system in place, I’ll be closing the PayPal account.
I’ll also continue to print about 60 copies of each edition for free distribution from the two boxes in downtown State College.
Thanks, as always, for reading.