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Monticello Live Makes Online News Work

2 min read

The changing print news world means many publications are struggling with how to incorporate digital products, but for others it’s become a good opportunity to fill a niche.

Monticello, for example, lacks a daily newspaper. Its print news publication, the Advance Monticellonian, is one of the oldest in the state, but both its print and online versions are updated only once a week.

That’s why in 2007 Joe Burgess bought Monticello Live, then an occasionally updated blog. Burgess, who has a background in radio, has since turned it into the town’s main source of up-to-date news and a profitable advertising platform.

According to data collected on OneStat.com, Monticello Live has had 687,803 unique visitors so far in 2013, with more than 3 million total page views and 303,008 average views per month. Last year, the site had 750,236 unique visitors, 3.3 million total page views and 276,343 average views per month.

Burgess declined to discuss the site’s revenue figures, much less profit, but the site’s “advertising” page prices single-space ads at $100 per month, doubles at $175 per month, banners at $400 per month and ads appearing in the story feed at $40 per post. As of this writing, about 60 single-space ads and a half-dozen doubles were visible on the site, a few of which were house ads.

Posts on the site are a mixture of original reporting by Burgess, submissions from town organizations and paid ads. The site also features an obituary section and an event calendar. Burgess himself typically covers sports, town meetings, accidents and some crime. He also pays several part-time employees, including a Web developer, a designer and a reporter.

“I update every day,” he said, noting that he is sure to have at least one post in the morning and one in the afternoon. “The afternoon post might not be life-changing, but I’m going to put something there.”

He said he also has a working relationship with some of the local radio stations, which often pick up his news items. Some of his stories have also been picked up by outlets like CNN and ESPN.

The trick, Burgess said, was simply finding that niche.

“I’m not going to say I caught lightning in a bottle,” he said. “I don’t take a lot of credit. The situation was right. No one ever had a clue how much news or activity took place in Monticello until I got in that position and people started calling.”

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