Gannett watchdog needs cash

October 13, 2008

Former Gannett investigative journalist Jim Hopkins has made a new career out of bird-dogging his own company at Gannett Blog (no affiliation to the company), attracting tons of information about buyouts and layoffs, not to mention the usual office gossip that permeates any big company. No one quite follows Gannett like Hopkins, even when he spent the summer in Ibiza. (Talk about priorities!)

The problem? Here he is in his own words:

I’m now starting the time clock on an experiment illustrating the brutal economics of online journalism. Based on the long odds, I’ll probably fail — pushing Gannett Blog closer to its demise, and showing on a micro level why Gannett’s survival is so threatened.

I’m looking for ways to earn about $24,000 a year from several sources to supplement my income, now that USA Today’s severance checks are ending. A logical place to start: this blog, which in the past year has become a leading source of news and networking for more than 10,000 GCI employees and other readers each month.

My experiment opens a window on the reality of today’s journalism finance: Can this blog generate enough revenue to support its continued publication? We’re going to find out! Relying on two revenue streams — ads, and a voluntary subscription fee — I’ll share embarrassing details of how much I earn in the months ahead. Starting today, you’ve got front-row seats to the launch of a 51-year-old journalist’s second career.

This is an imperfect test. There are no immediate negative consequences if you don’t patronize my advertisers or pay for a subscription. I’m committed to editing this blog through Dec. 31.

But, I’m afraid all bets are off if I don’t find sufficient income potential here by year’s end. That might sound harsh, but it’s true. At some point, I gotta start making money again. That could mean work that allows less time for Gannett blogging.

Hopkins suggests a voluntary subscription fee that amounts to $20 a year, and is populating the site with Google ads now too. He sounds hopeful, but not all that hopeful, about his chances. We’re guessing that the Gannett Foundation isn’t going to give him any grants.

(Photo: Reuters)

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