Michele’s List: A Fascinating Project to Profile Local, Indy News Sites

Michele’s List

Have you ever asked yourself any of the following?

  • What CMSs are other local publishers using?
  • How are other publishers engaging their readers?
  • Which publishers make the majority of their revenue through something other than advertising?

If you haven’t heard of MichelesList.org yet, you should go check it out.

Michele McLellan, the founder of the Block by Block (BxB) local publisher conference, has been working hard on a project to survey and catalogue the independent news publishers of the US and Canada. She calls it “Michele’s List.”

Michele has a long history of studying and connecting online news publishers. If you’ve ever been to BxB, you know how helpful it is to hear from other publishers that have built their businesses in a transitioning news and ad industry.

And that’s what Michele’s List is about: Having local publishers share information ranging from the mundane details of their technology stack to providing candid insight into their revenue, failures and successes — all in an effort to connect and educate each other.

The end result is a pretty fascinating snapshot of the local, independent news industry.

We asked Michele about the motivation behind creating the site:

Michele’s List is evolving. When I first created it in 2010, it was my attempt to identify “promising” sites, ones that were working on content, engagement and, importantly, revenue. What I discovered was that there were dozens of sites – more than I’d expected to find – and they didn’t at all fit the prevailing stereotype of angry bloggers who were said to be undermining local news. Instead, a lot of them were journalists who were passionate about their communities and local news.

She began revamping the site last year to include more detailed information:

It’s pretty detailed on the type of site, the area it serves, the primary topics it covers, revenue and revenue sources, traffic, tax status and site platform. So, for example, you could look up something as specific as “What neighborhood sites are making making $100,000 a year, primarily from local advertising sales?” “Who has established a secondary revenue stream from events?” “Who is on WordPress?”

Of course, those are things you might learn in passing at an event like Block by Block, but Michele’s List has a powerful search feature for getting those answers instantly. Try it out.

Michele explained that too:

Generally, I look at whether they are producing a significant amount of local content, whether they are transparent and engaging with their communities, and whether they are seriously working on revenue. Here are the specific criteria.

She went on:

I would add that there are good sites that don’t necessarily meet the criteria, including some great volunteer efforts. But I think my criteria start to get at sites that are developing practices that are replicable in other communities.

Michele creates a bare-bones profile of a local news publication. She then creates an account for the publisher, who can log in and fill out a survey, some of which is confidential. Non-confidential responses are displayed on the publication’s profile.

Michele’s List has a “Suggest a Site” feature, which anyone can use to propose a site’s inclusion. Right now, Michele focuses exclusively on sites in the US and Canada. Over 40 publishers have participated so far, although a few have declined.

If you’re interested in participating, suggest your own site, or reach out to Michele directly.

PS: Michele’s List is on Twitter too.

Disclosure: The team behind Broadstreet helped build Michele’s List 😉

Michele's List

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