I’ve been wondering a lot recently about why it is so difficult for individuals to find a way to make citizen journalism websites profitable.
There is an obvious answer – at least from my perspective as a former newspaper editor and reporter.
Most of those who have a desire to start or run a citizen journalism website have a journalism background. Journalists aren’t trained in sales. But they are trained to be unbiased in their reporting.
So, how can you be unbiased in your reporting when you are writing a news article about one of the major advertisers on your website?
In the “professional” news business, there usually are two different departments – one that handles the news and one that handles the sales.
In a perfect world, individuals in these two departments should not come into contact with one another. So the news writer never takes into account how much advertising one business buys. And the advertising salesman has no idea if a business is in the news.
But with a citizen journalism website, often one person handles both the writing and sales. And that person usually has a news background. It’s not an easy transition to wear both hats – reporting and writing, and sales.
My solution is as old as the advertising department in most newspaper offices around the world: Commission sales. Find someone equally passionate about your cause and hire them on a commission basis.
Surely in these days of record unemployment, someone will step up to the plate to serve as the advertising department so the original owner/operator of the website can focus on reporting and writing the news, sports and features in his/her community.
If you’d like to read about someone who actually did marketing and is making money from his website, read the recent blog written by Ron Ross, co-founder of the National Association of Citizen Journalists, at http://ronrosstoday.com/?p=374.
Susan Cormier is the head coach in charge of training at the National Association of Citizen Journalists (http://nacj.us/) and co-author of the “Handbook for Citizen Journalists” (http://www.citizenjournalistnow.com/).