Some say that local news is a dying field. But for Josh Popichak, Publisher of Saucon Source in Saucon Valley, Pennsylvania, it’s really just getting started.
After crowdfunding some startup capital, Popichak launched Saucon Source in October 2014. He’s since used a mix of technology, unique monetization methods, and good old fashioned news gathering to grow it into a site with nearly 100,000 monthly pageviews in an area that has just about 18,000 residents.
Popichak’s journalism career began about ten years ago. He spent a few years working in print media and then made the switch to digital with a job covering local news for Patch.com. When that job ended, Popichak knew that he still wanted to deliver quality news content to his local community. And having seen the power of digital media, he came up with the idea for starting Saucon Source.
But Saucon Source isn’t just unique in that it delivers hyperlocal news content in a digital format. Popichak has also formed a unique business model for the company.
In addition to display advertising, sponsored content and other sponsorship opportunities for local companies, Popichak offers a social media management option for local businesses. He currently has about five businesses that pay him a monthly retainer fee to manage their facebook pages and connect them with local fans. Since he’s already built up a loyal following for Saucon Source, this offering allows a unique opportunity for Saucon Source and local businesses to work and grow together.
Popichak explained in an exclusive interview with Small Business Trends, “I’m able to succeed at this largely because of my own personal Facebook network, which is large and primarily local. I’m also able to harness the power of the Saucon Source site when necessary to direct traffic to their pages, which is an added benefit. So everything works in tandem to give them more ‘bang for their buck’ than they would get from other companies that provide social media management services.”
And in the future, Popichak has plans to further diversify the income streams for Saucon Source through classified advertising, a local deals page, paid tiers for business directory listings and even video listings. He also mentioned the possibility of launching more news sites in neighboring communities that don’t currently have much in the way of professionally run local news outlets.
But Saucon Source’s relative success up to this point doesn’t mean there haven’t been challenges. Though Popichak has plenty of experience covering local news for various outlets, he’s learned that running your own business comes with a lot of unexpected work. And since he’s running the business on his own, with the help of one paid freelancer, it mainly falls on him.
For example, since he’s seen as an authority on the community, Popichak spends a lot of time fielding questions from readers. And many of those questions don’t even necessarily go into what he covers for Saucon Source.
Popichak explains, “Partly because I’m so accessible via Facebook in particular, I’ve become the go-to person for any and all questions related to the community I cover. Sometimes these questions evolve into news stories, but sometimes they’re as basic as ‘will our garbage be picked up on (Insert name of holiday)?’ or ‘Can you recommend a good local dentist?’ I try to answer everyone in a timely manner, because I know how frustrating it can be when you can’t find the information you need.”
Being constantly accessible to help his fellow community members is certainly time consuming. But it’s also a part of the job he really enjoys. Popichak believes that covering local news in a way that will really reach readers and encourage them to keep coming back means being a part of the community yourself.
He says, “I’ve been working in local journalism for 10 years now and I am very much a believer in the importance of grassroots-fed, community-based news to our society.”
Although Popichak would like to increase Saucon Source’s readership and revenue moving forward, he has no plans to grow into a company that’s too big to deliver the type of quality local news he currently focuses on.
“I don’t ever want to become too big, however, to lose sight of the people — my readers — who are the reason for my success. I have seen this happen with many media companies I have worked for, and it’s a big part of the reason I struck out on my own.”
Images: Saucon Source, Facebook, Top Image: Josh Popichak, Second Image: Josh Popichak and Richard Fluck, Mayor of Hellertown, PA