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Expanding the weekly readership of LaCoastPost

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by Len Bahr, PhD*

I’m old enough to remember discussing My Weekly Reader in elementary school classes. I was presumably reading editions 11 or 12 years newer than this example from October 1936 but I vaguely remember the little newspaper being just about as colorful as this age-browned sheet and as stimulating as reading lessons about seeing Spot run.

My brother-in-law Maurice Fox, currently recuperating from heroic treatment for a rare and pernicious form of oral cancer, ran a simple linear regression for me on the growth of ‘My Weekly Readership,’ using viewer data collected during the past 29 weeks. The result is as follows: R = 2036 + 60 (W), where R = weekly viewers and W represents the number of weeks elapsed since December 6, 2009.

As a scientist I know very well that extrapolating this slope into the future is naive. Nevertheless, it’s extremely tempting to contemplate that, at this rate of growth, in about six months ‘My Weekly Readership’ would average about 5,000 unusually canny and influential souls – a perfect demographic profile for potential sponsors and/or advertisers.

I founded LaCoastPost primarily for the love of the challenge of creating a new centralized source of credible coastal information and a discussion forum on the plight of the Mississippi River delta. Free time resulting from my retirement, frustration with the pace and direction of deltaic restoration and love of writing fueled the challenge but I began the enterprise with no financial expectations or considerations.

A colleague and co-attendee at the recent 15th annual coastal awards banquet of the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana (CRCL) told me that he wished I had created LaCoastPost ten years ago. Two issues would have precluded that hypothetical happenstance: (1) ten years ago I couldn’t have afforded to quit my job at the Governor’s Office; and (2) the blogosphere hadn’t evolved sufficiently in 2000 to provide readership to justify such an effort.

At my birthday party on June 13 I had conversations with several LaCoastPost supporters about the growing popularity of LaCoastPost, its political influence and how it could be expanded to become a household name in south Louisiana and beyond. To use an ecological metaphor, I’m intrigued with the potential to continue to exploit what was obviously an ‘empty niche’ and to expand the ‘population density’ of LaCoastPost to the undefined resource limits that represent an unknown ‘carrying capacity.’

Unfortunately, with twenty months under our respective belts, my c0-volunteer blog manager Allie Stevens and I have hit a glass ceiling. We’re now at the limits of our time, energy and money. We can’t expand the scope and frequency of posts without sacrificing quality standards for writing and formatting. The bottom line is that achieving the potential coastal information carrying capacity would require adding a paid staffer.

The question then becomes whether and how to use our proven track record to turn LaCoastPost into a self-funded operation.

The partiers with whom I discussed this issue suggested two means of raising sufficient funding to hire a paid assistant: (1) seeking formal non-profit status so as to raise money by corporate underwriting, fund drives, tee shirt sales, etc.; or (2) seeking formal for-profit status and becoming a commercial operation, selling internet advertising. It was also suggested that I should explore the possibility of selling my services on the speaking circuit.

In a post on November 11, 2009 I solicited feedback from readers on the prospect of expanding the scope of LaCoastPost to the entire Gulf coast. The feedback was consistently against that proposition. Now I’m requesting similar responses in terms of ideas on generating sufficient revenues to hire full time help (perhaps Allie Stevens, herself) to take LaCoastPost to a higher level. Ideas, anyone?

*Founding Editor (leonardbahr@gmail.com)

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  1. Gail Gillies says:

    I have sold advertising for, oh well, we don’t need to talk about how many years. I think internet advertising is the way to go. Google’s program is important to get started but it won’t do it all. You need someone to aggressively sell advertising.

    Here’s the kicker. It takes about 40 calls a day to generate a decent amount of advertising dollars. It takes up to 80 calls a day to turn a profit.

    To me it sounds as if you need to hire an independent sales rep to sell ads for you. The going rate is 20% commission. For print advertising these days it’s 25%.

    I am willing to volunteer my time a couple of days a week to make calls for you. If we see positive results quickly we can talk about more time and some commission.

    Yours is a worthy cause. I am sure the idea of expanding it to the entire Gulf Coast is a no-brainer now that there is a “shared” crisis. A spotlight is on the entire Gulf Coast. Speaking strictly as a business person, I’d take advantage of that.

  2. HeidiHoe says:

    Perhaps ‘partner’ with Levees.Org????

    Share resources????

  3. Google Adsense has always seemed like a pretty good web ad service to me. It allows you to choose the content of the ads to be displayed as well.

  4. John Atkeison says:

    Holy moly.

    My guess is that the next step will be heavy lifting. But I REALLY value what you do.

    Here’s my guesses.
    – Only go the 501(c)3 route if you have a someone else take it one. I tried it, and it will eat your time like a dragon on a princess.
    – Make sure you have clear goals, measurable when possible, and match your efforts accordingly.
    – Just to be clear: to EXPAND what you do, you have to get paid staff. You can continue as you are…?

  5. Anonymous says:

    You can sell internet advertising and still be a not-for-profit

  6. would you really want to turn this into your own non-profit? imagine it may be easier if there is an existing 501c3 that would take on the weblog as a project, although i can’t think of one.

    but I would be happy to promote the weblog on WTUL 91.5fm in New Orleans. Can you email me the script for the PSA? I can guide it through the process.

    scott
    WTUL news and views
    wtul.fm

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