When Eric Richardson started blogging about his downtown L.A. neighborhood four years ago, it was just for fun. But now that his Blogdowntown website has built a monthly readership of 30,000, he’s looking to turn it into a moneymaker.

How? By doing the exact opposite of what many publications have done. He’s going to a print edition.

Starting this week, Richardson will publish a free newspaper called Blogdowntown Weekly. The full-color, 16-page tabloid will print every Thursday.

He’s developing the print edition because he expects it to sell more ads and at higher prices compared with the website. The weekly will print 25,000 copies.

“We didn’t have any money,” he said of his online product. “Print really gives us a way to kick off what we’re doing and earn significantly more revenue.”

The publication will have an emphasis on listing weekend activities for downtown residents, but will also publish entertainment-related news and features. Meanwhile, Richardson will continue to use the website to blog about area news. A three-person editorial staff and a handful of freelancers produce the website and the newspaper, tracking local issues such as a slew of shootings near 7th and Main streets, and the recent eviction of wine bar the Must.

Richardson estimates that Blogdowntown could make as much as $490,000 in its first year from combined advertising for the weekly edition and website, while online advertising would have generated only $60,000. That’s because he’s able to charge a significantly higher rate for print advertisements; the going rate is $2,500 for a full-page print ad in Blogdowntown Weekly while an online banner sells for only $150 a week.

Industry experts said smaller, geographically focused papers like Blogdowntown can still draw ad revenue from print, even in the days of declining readership and ad sales for bigger print publications.

“Weekly newspapers have done better than metro papers with advertising because they’re more specialized,” said Ken Doctor, a news industry analyst for Outsell Inc., a Burlingame-based publishing research company.

On the other hand, it’s tough for small news outlets to find significant revenue online, he noted, because large media corporations, such as Google, drive the online advertising market and don’t pay much attention to small-circulation shops.

Blogdowntown is not the first online venture to bet that print advertising has potential. Printed Blog is a Chicago company that began publishing items compiled from a variety of community blogs in 2008. The company also publishes a San Francisco edition.


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