Case Study: Lichfield Community Media (LCM) (UK)

The name of the publication and / or company

Lichfield Community Media (LCM)

Established

2009

Web Address

lichfieldlive.co.uk

Form of the company

Community interest company

Describe your site or business in few words.

Philip John, web developer, internet consultant: “LCM started as Lichfield Blog three years ago. Later on the name was changed to Lichfield Live. Recently LCM launched also Burntwood Live. (Lichfield and Burntwood are major towns in Lichfield District, in Staffordshire, which is home to about 97 000 people.)”

Philip John also runs his own web business, Journal Local, which offers a WordPress platform designed especially hyperlocal websites.

He says: “They’re bot technically businesses. Journal Local is a commercial operation, for profit, whereas LCM is a not-for-profit but it’s still a business – we aim to make money to do the things we want to do. We can do commercial things. like advertising and our t-shirt shop. That’s purely commercial, but the profits just go back into the organization. If Journal Local makes a profit then that’s my profit.

Getting news from on the ground community groups is important for us. We get lots from the police, fire service, local council etc, but most community groups don’t have a PR person to do that. We’ve come up with a website hosting platform – it’s the same as Journal Local but for Lichfield only. We’re going to go to community groups and teach them how to create and run their own websites and basically feed our site with what they’re doing. We’ve been given funding by the local council to buy a laptop and a good quality camera, and we are lending this equipment out to community groups. So we can then just tap into that – they don’t have to have a PR person to let us know what they’re doing. We’re launching this project this year to secure future contributions from the community.”

Staff numbers

Who’s creating the content

Content creators, unpaid

10-20

Are some of the content creators citizen contributors or interns?

Yes, some are active citizens of the community. Some are professional journalists.

How is your time divided between doing business and content?

Ross Hawkes, the editor, does content, I do business. Ross spends easily an hour every day on content. I probably spend about 5-10 hours a week on the business side of things.

Business, marketing & sales, other

1

How they make money

Revenue models and sustainability

Would you say your business model is sustainable?

We’ve got a fair bit of money sitting in our bank account, so it’s OK. We’ve tried quite a few business models. Advertising has generated most of our revenue, and this is with no effort in selling ads at all – it’s just people seeing it on the site and deciding to try it out. Then we’ve got the t-shirt shop which has brought in around five or six hundred.

I would love to do hyperlocal full time but actually I am a developer and Ross is a lecturer now. Making LCM our full time job would involve me becoming the manager of a media business and Ross becoming a news editor again, and I don’t think that neither of us wants to do that. But at the same time I do think that we ought to reach the position where, if we wanted to, we could pay ourselves full time. I think that’s doable, we could get there.

How much is your yearly or monthly revenue?

We’ve got 21 000 pounds sitting in our bank account, from last two years

Where does your revenue go?

500 pounds in the last 2 years has gone out to pay for t-shirts. Then there are overheads, like registering the company, hosting, little bit of marketing, business cards. But that all comes to about 800 pounds over the last two years. We reckon the newspaper is going to cost us 600 pounds to start with. The whole ethos is that it’s community-run. It’s a response to traditional media. Everything we do has to be for the good of the community.

How much do you pay to your contributors?

At the moment nothing.

What about profit?

We’ve talked about producing a printed newspaper. We believe that we could fund it and make it profitable in a few months. That would actually pay for everything that we do. We’ve modeled this on the Hackney Citizen in London, where the hyperlocal website isn’t profitable but the newspaper is and one person is working full time. We’ve got the contacts in the community that we need to get advertising. We could either get the advertising ourselves or pay somebody to do it, pay a commission. We’ve got enough money at the moment to do first print run, which will pay for itself and a bit more. We would do it monthly.

What kind of advertising you sell?

Banner ads, cost per month

Do you sell services?

Freelancing – non journalism, Training

Do you sell virtual or physical products?

Merchandise

Other revenue sources

Donations

Do you see your publication as your main product?

No.

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

Maintaining the ability to provide the content. That’s the main thing.