Co-Founder and Publisher, Berkeleyside
Lance Knobel is Co-Founder and Publisher of Berkeleyside. Previously, Knobel was Editor in Chief of Management Today, a British business magazine, and World Link, the magazine of the World Economic Forum.
One of our readers contacted us and said, ‘Hey, Berkeleyside. Your coverage of these past two days has been incredibly important to me. I really wanted to know what was going on. I don’t know if you guys need any capital, but if you do, I think you’d be a great candidate for this thing called direct public offering.’ And we said to him, ‘What on Earth is direct public offering?’ and he explained it to us.
We rely on two main sources of revenue. The biggest is still advertising. We sell all of our advertising direct. We don’t use networks at all. And our advertising has held up pretty well against the onslaught of the major technology platforms. We don’t count on that necessarily happening forever. … By far the fastest growing area of revenue is membership. You know, like many sites, we take the attitude, we don’t make people pay for the news but we allow people to pay for the news. … The third area of revenue, which has been a good area for us, but I’ll kind of offer a caveat, is events. We’ve, for the last six years, run an annual ideas festival, a two-day ideas festival that is called Uncharted, the Berkeley Festival of Ideas.
In fact, I know it would be incredibly difficult to do some of the things that we’ve done, because they’re communities where people are scraping to get by economically. There’s a woman I know who’s running a news site in Flint, Michigan. I think she gets a lot of support from people in terms of, you know, ‘You go, girl,’ and, ‘We love what you do and it’s incredibly important to us,’ but most people there can’t provide a credit card and say, ‘I’ll give you $5 a month.’ That’s just a very limited percentage of the people in Flint because they’re so economically troubled and depressed. So I’m not saying, ’Yes, this is replicable everywhere.’ That would be folly.
The reason why I shy away from ‘hyperlocal,’ in fact have an allergic reaction to it, is I think it’s used by many people to diminish what sites like ours do. You know, you go back to the 1960s and there were several newspapers published out of Berkeley, and no one ever called them hyperlocal newspapers. They were just city newspapers.