COVID-19 has created seemingly endless demand for local news and information, whether it’s town policies, support services, restaurant hours or entertaining children during shelter-at-home circumstances.
Tinton Falls-based media and website enhancement company WebPublisherPro.com has stepped in to serve this previously underrepresented industry by building and maintaining news websites, as well as providing business strategies for local and national publishers.
Founder David Walsh launched his site five years ago, which he describes a “maturing startup looking to compete with the national players.”
He has more than 100 local news-based clients in North America, spanning 100 million readers. Some of his local business websites — a dozen in New Jersey — have been among the top performers. Business has picked up since early March, when the pandemic began to dominate the headlines.
His www.jerseybites.com site informs locals on which restaurants remain open, which ones deliver and how loyal customers can support local business by donating to the site’s operations or by buying advance gift cards for when it reopens.
Well-established www.baristanet.com covers all things news and entertainment related to Montclair Township.
And www.njfamily.com is geared toward parents — mostly moms — and offers information and ideas on many topics, including how to entertain children during this shelter-in-place lifestyle. WebPublisherPro helped it transition from print to digital.
“Searching for local news is exploding right now,” Walsh said. “Some of these sites are seeing readership increases of 4,500%. Others are boosting revenue by 200-300%. People will first get their news from the national sites, but then quickly pivot to local searches. Some sites have contacted us because theirs were crashing a few weeks ago because of high demand.”
Walsh said his company, which uses WordPress, dwarfs those do-it-yourself subscription website platforms such as Wix, which are geared mostly to individuals wishing to publish blogs and less sophisticated sites.
WebPublisherPro counsels publishers on how to modernize their sites, build reader email lists or generate paid subscriptions. It also helps them to produce virtual events or publish sponsored content and display advertising.
Like any business, Walsh wants to help his clients thrive financially. He’s helped some to experiment with asking for donations from readers to make up for the slumping online advertising many are seeing during today’s sputtering economy.
“Locals want to support them during these tough economic situations,” he says. “Sites are asking for single donations or even just $5 per month in order to keep them running. Local news is an important part of democracy.”