Estimated read time: 3 minutes

Eastern Iowa News was a community news website that was live for nine months in 2009. Overall, 2,700 articles were published by 81 contributors. Over 100,000 unique visitors stopped by to catch up on community news and events that were generally not covered by traditional media.

The site aimed to be a community space for Eastern Iowans to share information and for experts to add context and was run by me – Christoph Trappe – and went inactive when I took a job at The Gazette Company to kick-off a similar project.

It was a fantastic experience because the community was so involved and seemed to appreciate the content and stories that were being shared. I kept the domain for a few more years but then finally let it expire in 2015 when I decided that it was unlikely that I would restart the project.

How advertising worked on Eastern Iowa News

The nine months that Eastern Iowa News actively ran I played around with online niche advertising. And yes, it was a general news site, which wasn’t the best model for targeted online advertising. Typically, it’s better to have a narrower topic than everything.

But targeted niche advertising still worked on the site because of the variety of posts and news. Posts were structured in topical categories and ads ended up on the site in one of three ways:

  • Early partners: In the early, early days of the site, we gave ad spots away for free to community-minded businesses. There was no traffic, yet, so who would pay for that anyway, right? We took the opportunity to build relationships through this project.
  • Google Adsense – We did use targeted niche advertising through Google Adsense. Basically, once Google approves you to serve its ads, you get a code that allows you to display their ads on your site. Google then shares revenue with you based on impressions and click-throughs. (Note: You are not allowed to click on those ads yourself.)
  • Local targeted ads – Once traffic started going up we started selling ads locally. This was done everywhere: Online as well as offline. At this point, we grandfathered early partners in and stopped the free advertising program. In this new program, advertisers could buy ads on the homepage (see graphic below) – where most users would start – as well as within relevant content.

Niche advertising: Ad spots on Eastern Iowa News

A banner spot was $30/week, Spot 2 $25/week and so on. If you wanted to go lower than Spot 5, I’d take $1 off for each ad going down.

The ads would then stay on the page and in their spot for the entire time booked. It was great for a couple of reasons:

  • Once an ad was uploaded it was there. No further action needed.
  • When advertisers checked the site an ad would be there. No wondering about when it would show up.

So, were these prices cheap? Yep, absolutely, but the site was brand new and the initial goal wasn’t to monetize, but to provide news that wasn’t provided elsewhere.

But of course that doesn’t mean the site shouldn’t have ads on it from Day 1. We believe there is no reason not to place ads on a site from Day 1. At least Google Adsense.

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