New West is a different concept from other community sites. Started two years ago by Jonathan Weber, the former editor of The Industry Standard (the dot-com era trade bible), the seven-person site covers all of the Rocky Mountain region from its base in Missoula, MT. It has multiple revenue streams from Google AdSense and ads, and it also earns revenues from custom publishing, conferences and events. The site raised angel money in the high six figures to get going and will soon be profitable.
Weber has published a FAQ for “What Works in Community Journalism.” Within his comments, he notes that a differentiating aspect of the site is that it has a real mission covering the West’s dramatic growth and change. The multiple revenue streams, he says, “are a lovely thing. It remains difficult to make money on online advertising alone unless and until you have boatloads of traffic, and it is especially difficult to achieve that with a local site.”
Good editorial and basic SEO has been helpful for getting people to the site. But “we have however also found there are limits to what you can achieve in small local markets” with viral marketing, he says. “We intend to be more aggressive with marketing in the next phase.”
Competition-wise, Weber notes that “newspapers still dominate the local news and information business, especially outside of the major metro areas. There are various small, independent local sites that are competitors on some level but few that have any real traction. TV station and yellow pages Web sites are also becoming bigger factors in the market.”