Online news startups explore revenue sources beyond advertising

Michele McLellan

Revenue was very much on the agenda when more than 100 local news entrepreneurs gathered at the LION Summit in Chicago Oct. 1-3. There were encouraging, if fledgling, signs that some sites are looking beyond banner display advertising.

Supplemental sources include crowd-funding, membership programs, sponsored content, and events.

For now, however, banner display advertising is a mainstay. My annual survey of 100 digital native news sites found that 72 percent rely on advertising as a primary revenue source and 92 percent are selling traditional display ads.

That’s a vulnerability. If any source falters companies with diverse revenue sources have others to fall back on. Online display advertising is taking a lot of hits these days, including ad blockers, concerns about impression fraud, and concerns that people simply ignore banner ads.

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