How to close the site, spit on social networks, ban copy-paste and become a leading media company

Original author: Tim Currie
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AllNovaScotia charges $ 360 a year for access to its content, and he does not care about how other news sites survive. How did it happen that the most influential people in the region listen to him? Why is it profitable, and the rest barely make ends meet?

Each morning, the political and business elite of the largest of the Primorsky provinces of Canada begins with the AllNovaScotia website , drawing on it news about the life of their own region. The site recently turned ten years old, and in terms of influence, it competes with the local press. He achieved this, breaking the rules: free access to the site is almost impossible, the site is not represented on social networks, there are no multimedia materials on the site, and you can hardly find a hyperlink somewhere.

But he has apps for iOSand BlackBerry devices, to which he delivers business news, messages from City Hall and the local legislature without the slightest delay. He beautifies competitors almost every day and has won a loyal audience with an explosive mixture of government orders and private details from all the more or less significant people in the region.

The editorial office is located in Halifax, the capital of Nova Scotia , the provincial population is less than a million people. Ask anyone on the street, and eight out of ten will answer you that you have never heard of AllNovaScotia.

“I think even all nine,” said Parker Donham, a former journalist for the now-closed Halifax Daily News, a consultant, and a blogger. “But whoever knows will most likely turn out to be an assistant to the deputy minister or some regional manager. It seems that relying on paid access and a small amount of advertising is a very working business model. In general, this is a completely normal media. There are few politicians and businessmen whose morning does not start from this site. ”

AllNovaScotia has 5,950 subscribers, their monthly fee is 80% of the company's revenue. Such attendance can not be compared with the competitor - the newspaper Chronicle Herald, it is 137 years old, and the weekly circulation is 108389 copies. For $ 30 a month, you get access to the site from three different email addresses. But copying content and sending it to someone outside will not be easy. Content produced by the editorial board of 14 people, 11 of which are reporters, is packaged in a flash container. So in the best case scenario you will have to make screenshots and glue them into one picture, you will not find the Share button here.

The head of the association of small and medium-sized businesses in the region (5200 companies in total) claims that the site’s influence on the association’s members is not wide but strong. “I’d venture to suggest that most have never heard of AllNovaScotia,” said Lin Hachi, vice president of the Atlantic affiliate of Canada’s Independent Business Federation. ““ Nevertheless, as far as I know, everyone who has an influence on politics or is associated with government authorities knows this site and very carefully monitors it. ”

In many ways, AllNovaScotia is similar to the Massachusetts Statehouse News Service . This is a network resource that covers all issues of government activities for lobbyists, officials and businessmen. However, the AllNovaScotia approach is both wider and bolder.

In the center of each issue are permits for real estate management, court orders, transfer of land. As well as success stories and failures associated with them. One of the January editions was a typical mixture of the most important news and the husks of socialite chronicles. The issue of 25 articles includes:
  • lightning about the fact that the first Apple brand store in the region will open in a local hypermarket;
  • notice that a buyer was found for one of the closing paper mills;
  • a description and photographs of a $ 7.6 million estate bought by a local tycoon in Florida;
  • dossier on three new partners of a leading law firm in the regional capital;
  • Obituary of a small local businessman who sponsored a local hockey team.

Former chief editor, who retired in June, Kevin Cox says the site’s target audience is a complex, intertwined and family-oriented business community. “The strangest thing is that they like to read about each other. Not in a satirical sense, but quite seriously, ”continues Cox, who previously wrote articles for the Globe and Mail newspapers, and now is writing comments for the site and is about to take up the post of priest of the United Church. “How does the Fontaine family squander money?” How do they make money? Who are they distributing them to? ”

As it turned out, the Fontains, one of the region’s largest philanthropists, spent a decent amount on their Christmas party on December 10, ordering a performance by Tony Bennett. So the next issue of AllNovaScotia came out with an editorial that relished the details of the festival, a Bennet set list and a guest list explaining who is who.

This concentration of the site’s attention on people and their wealth distinguishes the company from other business media. In the texts, the names are in bold, often followed by their salary and the estimated value of their property in brackets. Almost every issue has news about who is suing anyone.

“We wrote about real estate. We wrote about local securities. We wrote about old families. ” - Cox tells about the beginning of its activities in 2004. “We wrote about large deals, about small deals. About breweries and cafes. Some news was about such petty occasions that nobody paid attention to. ”

The site inherited the character from its founder, David Bentley, who in the 1980s became the co-founder of Frank Magazine) This is a very shameless print and online magazine, chronicling the divorces of local celebrities, squabbles and affair. Many in this conservative region read it, although few admit it. Ten years earlier, Bentley founded a separate newspaper, which later became known as the Halifax Daily News. This incoherent tabloid in 1994 became the first Canadian newspaper to open its website. The newspaper closed in 2008, twenty years after Bentley sold it.

Now David no longer runs the Open Journal, he says that readers of AllNovaScotia are businessmen, government officials and heads of health and welfare services. These are people who need to know what is happening and who read the materials, "just to know who is suing and who owes to whom."

Cox claims that the site writes about the privacy of the local business elite, if it can affect the business they do.

“Just because you are Colin MacDonald from Clearwater does not mean that we will not delve into the ins and outs of the value of your business securities. And this does not mean that we will not interfere in the personal lives of people, ”says Cox. This approach did not annoy MacDonald, director of an international fishing company with an annual turnover of $ 300 million. The site wrote a lot about Clearwater during a friendly takeover in 2011. When MacDonald went fishing in Newfoundland during the deal, the site published an article with the headline “Colin went to fish,” which asked, “Has the passion of one of the company's most dedicated founders for business been extinguished?”

In a letter, MacDonald wrote: “AllNovaScotia provides me and, I dare to assume, many more business leaders with the latest news about what is happening in the community.” This is a competitive advantage over other media in the region, which are slower and “suffer from a lack of business information and an understanding of the essence of the matter.”

In response, Chronicle-Herald launched the morning business newsletter in 2011 and hired business reporters. But an important factor in the success of AllNovaScotia is not only the subject, but also the style of presentation of materials. “We argue on a huge number of topics. It could happen, it could happen. ” - says Cox. “We write about this with a fair amount of complacency, which many business publications would never have allowed themselves.”

To what extent does this style owe its roots to the Open Journal? “I think very significant.” - adds Cox. “We are sharply criticized by the local school of journalism for using anonymous sources. But we are told by people who will not talk to anyone else. If they give me some noteworthy information and I can double-check it, I think it's my duty to publish it. ”

But for Bentley and his daughter, the publishers of AllNovaScotia, “debt” is impossible without paying for access to the site. “We have to do it. Otherwise, they won’t buy a damn thing, ”he resolutely declares. “Our competitors are people who want to read for free. This is a gigantic problem sucking our blood every day. Sounds like paranoia, but it's true. ”

“As a result, we have a website, which, according to current concepts, should not appear on the Internet at all,” says Donham, a consultant and blogger. But for Bentley, this is in the order of things. Unlike other media executives who believe "that they get more for their content than it actually costs," Bentley knows that his information is worth his audience. He recognizes the importance of social media in the Arab spring, but insists: "You can’t do the production of content and not get paid for its production."

With all this, he is careful in evaluating the success of his site as a business model. “He has been with us for 10 or 11 years. This is just one place. ” He says. “What is success here?” Now, if we covered the whole continent in one fell swoop, it would be a different matter, would it not? ”

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