The Lowell Project: Determining a Revenue Stream
In order to “pay the bills,” it is important that we determine how we will generate revenue for Lowell.com. Of course there will be home page advertising banners, but there need to be other ways to generate revenue throughout the site. After reviewing many other geographic websites and consulting with several people in the industry, I’ve determined that there are a few ways to generate revenue:
1. Sell a limited number of business listings in each section of the website (restaurants, shops, lawyers…etc). Each section would have 10 premium listings available, and each listing would link to a full page on the website where the advertiser can provide a business description, upload pictures, offer discounts or give other information. Because the number of listings are limited, the price would be high for each.
2. List ALL Lowell businesses (phone number and address) in different categories of the website, and offer each business the opportunity to pay for enhancements to its listing. Using phpmydirectory, each business can add other information to their listing for a set fee. We would also provide an opportunity for the business to upgrade their listing to the top of the results page and add a category banner to stand out from the other businesses in the category.
3. Same as above, but instead of charging for the listing enhancements, we would allow each business to enhance its listing for free. Although this won’t generate revenue, it would add content to the website, which in turn would bring more visitors, giving businesses a reason to pay for upgrades and advertising.
4. Offer free listings throughout the website, and place Adsense banners and links throughout the site. While this would be the easiest thing to implement, it might cheapen the look and feel of the website.
After reviewing the options with my developer, I decided to choose option #3. I think this brings the best of all worlds to the website and will give businesses the most value. When people visit Lowell.com, I want them to find all the information they need. I want businesses to be encouraged to enhance their listings at no cost, and if it is free, there is no reason not to do it. This will give site visitors good information about many more businesses than if we had done it another way.
Down the road, we may work with affiliate companies for hotels and for tickets, but until traffic grows, I believe selling the advertising space to individual businesses is a better option. This option will also allow me to work directly with Lowell businesses, which should help me learn more about the city. Down the road, we may incorporate more user generated content opportunities (such as reviews), but for now, we want to start out small-ish and scale as needed.
***Updated by Elliot***
As we continue to invest in this website and our vision is developed, we may change the revenue model if it doesn’t work within our budget. At this point, everything is subject to change!
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