Publishing Revenue

In a tough ad climate, small publishers are finding success in small donations

Digital advertising is competitive and the subscription business is competitive, but digital publishers are finding hope in small-dollar donations.

This month, LAist and DCist, Los Angeles and Washington-focused local news sites once owned by DNAinfo, will each launch Kickstarter campaigns. They’re hoping to mirror the success of their sister site Gothamist, which more than doubled its $100,000 fundraising goal through a Kickstarter campaign that ended on May 4. The donations are meant to set both sites on a new course, where donations, rather than advertising, represent their largest stream of revenue.

“The advertising model that DNA[info] was trying to develop really struggled in terms of gaining the kind of scale digital publishers need to have,” said Bill Davis, the president of Southern California Public Radio, which now owns LAist. “The way we think it can be sustainable is not primarily advertising, but [with a revenue model] that starts with contributions from the audience.”

LAist plans to use its visitors’ reading history to target them with tailored requests for donations. Some of those requests will aim to drive recurring donations, which publishers prefer over one-time gifts because they make for more predictable revenue. Others will be used to figure out which messages resonate best.

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