Benito Link is a community-driven, non-profit local news site serving rural Benito County, which borders Santa Clara County, California. The nonprofit site seeks donations and sponsorships among other funding sources. Its mission is to inform all residents in decisions and engage them in order to improve our community's "quality of life."
Local businesses and community college
BenitoLink was started with funding from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the Community Foundation for San Benito County (CFFSBC). Three years into it, we are an independent, 501(c)(3) which the CFFSBC takes pride in.
BenitoLink’s mission is to inform and engage our community while being inclusive. We have doubled our site usage each year since our inception. Today (3/8/16), we have between 15,000 and 25,000 unique visitors a month- in a 58,000 resident county. Our demographics show growing BenitoLink usage in San Jose and San Francisco.
BenitoLink completed its first major fundraiser in December 2015, bringing in $20,000 in community contributions small and large, matched by a CFFSBC grant of $20,000, for a total of $40,000.
We are currently improving our donation page, selling sponsorships, broadening our production team (as frugally as possible), hosting political forums and planning future events.
The website is becoming dynamic and stimulating. Citizens tell us it is their modern-day "hometown newspaper". Content contributions from the public are increasing. The responses to opinion pieces as well as our professionally reported stories show expanding reader engagement.
Sponsorships and ad sales have picked up and are improving in 2016.
For increased site usage, we are looking for creative ways to reach our large commuter and Latino population. We have to operate with a very tight budget while our community asks us to dig deeper on our stories and help bring government and policy decisions into the light of day.
Our goal is to be inclusive and help residents be better informed so they can make knowledgeable decisions. Our challenge is to convince individuals or businesses that BenitoLink is creating a high quality product and be willing to pay something to be associated with it.
Facebook and Twitter regular usage. Facebook numbers are very good.
Commenting is definitely a sign of engagement and is a wealth of good ideas brought forward by community members.
We have a "contributor's night" twice a year to get all the story producers paid or unpaid together. Lots of fun and improves loyalty.
Creating memberships now because people are asking for it.
Co-hosting political forums to demonstrate our commitment to political coverage.
Improving our Calendar.
In 2015, we did not hire the best person for what we needed to achieve. We hired someone who was happy to do outreach but was not comfortable doing sales.
We are having more success in sales/sponsorships this year.
We have one large,individual donor. We need to find the right pairing with businesses who would like to be associated with our mission. (Apple, Juniper, Cisco, Google etc all have residents here but have not committed to the county yet.)
San Benito County, Calif.
Provide a public forum
Just starting to expand education coverage.
Community college, public access television
We have certain stories that are picked up regularly. Our county voted against fracking in 2015 and we got a lot of attention from the bay area on that topic. Pinnacles National Park also draws interest.
What we notice is that we will run a story and Bay Area news organizations will pick it up soon afterward using us as a story idea source but not crediting it.
Here's a typical example-
Santa Cruz and SF PBS have not been warm to working with BenitoLink in general and typically don't like our "rural" perspective on things but they watch us a lot for story ideas.