Block by Block will be hosting next week its second annual Block by Block Community News Summit, an independent, online local news publishers gathering in Chicago, Sep. 29-Oct. 1. In the days leading up to the summit, we will feature here a short blog series on different publishers in the BxB network, their sites and entrepreneurial journalism experience.
The first installment is by Amy Senk, publisher of Corona del Mar Today covering the coastal neighborhood of more 13,000 population in Newport Beach, Calif. Amy launched the site in March 2009.
By Amy Senk
A year ago, as I mingled at the opening reception for the first Block by Block conference, I was overwhelmed and completely nervous. The other attendees seemed to have so much going for them: Patch was a brand-new threat, or so I thought, and I was running a modest little news site without much bedazzling. But I listened, I talked, I learned, and I put into action a lot of what I took away.
Today, things at Corona del Mar Today are going great. My advertising revenue has more than doubled in the past year, making the site profitable, and my daily page views continue to climb.
My partnerships with two legacy papers, The Daily Pilot and The Orange County Register, are stronger than ever. Frequently, the editors pay extra to run my pieces in print instead of waiting for the weekend column. The editors and the staff writers are re-Tweeting my articles more frequently. One paper named me as No. 67 of the Top 103 influential people in the Newport-Mesa, Calif., community. Recently, our Mayor Pro Tem mentioned that half of her emails from constituents say, “I was reading in Corona del Mar Today…”
In the past year, I’ve added a subscription feature, I’ve been asked to lecture to college students and to Knight fellows and I’ve had two high school students write and photograph for me as part of senior projects.
Those are all very gratifying things about my job and the site’s growth.
I have come to accept there are limits to what I can do as a one-woman operation in a very small community. When it rains it pours, but some days, not much happens. Some tree wells get replanted or the Chamber of Commerce announces a luncheon. Some days, all hell breaks loose. I’ve learned to pace myself, and to recognize what the true hyperlocal angle is and to stick to that narrow focus.
I’d like to try to improve my site, even if I’m not growing it or expanding it per se. I’ve been intrigued for a long time with multimedia story telling — not just putting up a quick video of a fire or a ribbon-cutting, but real stories.
I’m interested in ideas that will help me improve my site’s content quality, tips to increase profits, thoughts on partnerships, legal concerns, ethical concerns and more — but I don’t want to take too much time away from my main goal, producing news on a daily basis for my readers.
Follow the Block by Block conference on Twitter at #bxb11..