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Cashing In On Viral Stories

Our friends over at LION Publishers provided an interesting look at how Block Club Chicago made $100,000 thanks to a rogue alligator.

Here's how it went down:
Gator Watch officially began on July 9, 2019, when the nonprofit newsroom Block Club Chicago broke the news of a rare alligator sighting in west Chicago.

Thirty stories and 4,000 T-shirts later, Gator Watch went down not only as a viral content series, but also one of Block Club’s most successful fundraising campaigns ever, with readers snapping up more than $100,000 in merchandise.
Pulling in $100K is quite impressive. This shows how a little bit of outside-the-box thinking can led to a new revenue idea. Imagine how many fun, viral stories your newsrooms have published over the years that you didn't capitalize on. Well, actually don't think about that too much or else you'll start pounding your head against your desk once you realize all of the money you left on the table.

You might be laughing, but seriously... did you know there's a company out there that is dedicated to finding viral sports moment and memorializing them basically overnight on t-shirts? Yep, and it's very successful. Oh, and the company president used to work for Gannett

If you're looking for a more newsy example, well then you should check out, which started out as a lifestyle website and transitioned into a local news. It is currently run by Glacier Media Group, and earns revenue by selling Vancouver-related merchandise. (If anyone wants to buy me a Chinatown Otter shirt I will not refuse it...)

At one point they struck a deal with the British Columbia Provincial Health Officer's very popular sign language interpreter on a series of prints. Nigel is no Chance the Snapper, but the prints were still a hit with the locals.

In any case, if your community is anything like every other community in the world, the people who live there (and used to live there) are proud of where they're from. And they probably would love to show their hometown pride on their clothes.

Now who is going to help me print up some shirts for THIS GIANT FRICKIN' SNAKE that is currently hanging out in the trees in my neighborhood?

Who Can You Trust?

If you thought that a change in the White House might led to a change in how our country views journalists, well you'd be right -- but not in the way you might expect.

According to the latest numbers from CivicScience, "the percentage of Americans who don’t trust any news sources has increased by 9% since the fourth quarter of 2020."

That means a whopping 48 percent of Americans don't trust ANY news source. That number jumped after hovering at about 38 percent all of 2020.

"After a year that saw Americans’ trust in media outlets to deliver unbiased news reach its highest point in four years, distrust has rebounded back to pre-pandemic levels," CivicScience reported.

Here is a look at the CivicScience trends:
The CivicScience data is pretty telling on what sources Americans view as at least somewhat credible, so you should head over to their site to check out the rest of the numbers.

This chart, in particular, is quite telling for anyone in the newspaper industry:
Notice what category is missing from the 18-24 range? Strengthen your digital game, folks.  That is all.

NewStart Update

Speaking of strengthening your digital game, our online Media Solutions and Innovation program is a great way to prepare you to own your very own audience-first and digital-first publication.

The application period is open right now for both our master's program and our executive training program. You can find out more about each here, and we're also holding a series of information sessions later this month so you can learn more, ask questions or just heckle me. Whatever floats your boat.

You can sign up for one of the info sessions here.

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Quick Hits

Here is a lot of informative news from around the world of local journalism. Enjoy! 

Learn: "How THE CITY’s Open Newsroom initiative is creating a 'two-way street' of information sharing on issues like food insecurity, tenants rights and unemployment." "How would a model that relies on local philanthropy work in communities that are underresourced? ... We asked that question of our own data — a sample size of some 165 news organizations varying from nonprofit startups to public radio stations to more traditional family-run newspapers that had never fundraised before. And we ran into what may seem like a surprising finding." "This 'hub-and-spoke' model using statewide entities like Spotlight PA, VTDigger, Mississippi Today, Mountain State Spotlight, and many others provides a ready pathway to scale coverage to local cities and towns without building new organizations in every location." "To understand what went wrong with digital journalism, we need to go back to the fat years of newspaper journalism that preceded it." "In January I quietly launched a new company called Journalism Growth Lab. The aim is to help established publishers grow their audience and find paying customers using advertising platforms like Facebook, Google, Twitter, LinkedIn, Tik Tok, YouTube, etc." "Here is a short list of actions to rebuild and reconceive journalism that recognizes our changed world." If you run a local news organization that’s trying to figure out reader or corporate funding, this post can help you get started. "Whether you’re already involved in media & entertainment, or want to ramp up on the industry’s latest and most interesting developments, I think you’ll find this report a valuable resource." "Publishers looking to reboot their markets following the pandemic need to recognize the retail sector is no longer their best revenue source," Wagner starts his latest column for state newspaper associations. "But this decision was also risky: Almost a quarter of Stuff's traffic came from social media — and mainly from Facebook. 'We were expecting that it would bring a significant drop in our traffic,' Boucher said. Those fears never materialized. While Stuff's social media traffic did drop, overall traffic went up." "The News Alerts of Beaver County group has become a must-read after the decline of the local newspaper. That's worked out, sometimes." "In addition, Lee hopes to grow to 900,000 digital online subscription from 286,000 today, generate $100 million in annualized revenue from its Amplified Digital Agency in three years and achieve its long-term leverage target of under 2.5x." "To say that the year since has been tumultuous is an understatement. There is no unaffected news organization; none went unscathed. COVID-19 impacted every facet of the business: staffing and safety; workflow; content and coverage; audience, revenue, and advertising; production, printing, and distribution. Due to that, it’s important for us to check in with newsrooms across the country—one year later—as the pandemic still looms."


That's all for this week. 

You can follow NewStart on Twitter @wvunewstart, and you can @ me @jimiovino. You can follow us on the Facebooks here.

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