Case study: West Seattle Blog (USA)

Based on an interview with Tracy Record February 10 2011.

Name of the publication

West Seattle Blog

Established (year)

2005

Web address

westseattleblog.com

Form of the organization

LLC

Describe the business in few words

News about West Seattle with broad variety of topics. Continuous and original reporting, constantly updated with the help from community members aka. “collaborators”. A true 24/7 news site. Run by a couple, Tracy Record (editor) and Patrick Sand (business manager).

Staff numbers

Who’s creating the content

Content creators, paid full-time

1, Tracy Record, Editor.

Content creators, paid freelancers or part-time.

Several, including photographers.

Business, marketing & sales, paid full-time

1, Patrick Sand, business manager and ad sales.

Development, technology

Outsourced to freelancers / consultants.

How is your time divided between doing business and content?

Tracy Record does mostly news and community management since Patrick Sand takes care of the business meetings and networking.

How they make money

Revenue models and sustainability

Would you say your business model is sustainable?

Yes. The revenue has grown all three years and now she can afford to pay freelancers and get stories done. They work as a couple and from home, so the setup is different from traditional newsroom.

What about revenue?

They won’t disclose numbers, but Tracy Record mentions:

“Our standard of living is no worse from the time when I had a TV job earning a $100,000 a year.”

Where does your revenue go?

Mostly to paying freelancers and paying for the infrastructure. The site has grown rapidly, so they’ve hired a consultant to do some changes for the site.

How much do you pay to your contributors?

West Seattle Blog is paying freelancers from $50 to $125 per assignment. WSB decided to do 24/7 news, so they’ve built a fair amount of infrastructure: WSB is paying premium for hosting, $200 a month, and has five different forms of Internet service / connection so they’ll always have a backup. WSB also has a backup for power outages and is prepared for natural disasters.

What about profit?

So far everything extra they have made has gone right back to building business. And being prepared for taxes and all the business expenses you weren’t aware of.

“Learning how this all works has been the challenge of being a business. With more profit, I would like to have somebody that could actually watch the site while I’m out doing a story.”

What kind of advertising you sell

Monthly flat rate display advertising to local businesses. They are expecting to launch classifieds service soon. No affiliate marketing or Google Ads.

“We don’t sell on click-through or pay per page views. Frankly we have so many page views that if we did, the rates would be ridiculously high because ads run on every page. We more than 30,000 pageviews a day so the ads are surfed 30,000 times.”

Any other revenue sources: Tracy Record has no time for freelancing and they are not syndicating their content.

“Merchandise is a big waste of time: people were telling us how great it would be to buy a West Seattle T-shirt. So we made them and sold three.”

Do you see your publication as your main product?

The business model is very simple: a couple is running the website, creating content and ads.

“It’s the same way that somebody probably started a community newspaper a 100 years ago with a printing press in somebody’s store front. They went out and talked to the local businesses.  It’s the kind of thing I made with 21st century technology.

What would be the most important thing on your road to sustainability?

Tracy Record says the biggest difference is how you get a much closer to your readers. As a manager in her previous job at a TV station, she felt she was removed from the readers and viewers. With her own publication, she feels much more embedded to the community. Be around, set up your table at the local festivals and be available.

“They see me in the grocery store and say ‘hey you’re the blog lady!’”

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