British Columbia Site Pursues Alternative Ads

The Tyee, a community site based in Vancouver, BC, is pursuing a rich base of community advertisers and foundations left behind by the "establishment" views of CanWest, the publisher of The Vancouver Sun and other Canadian titles.

CanWest is a local business booster in Vancouver that supports the upcoming Winter Olympics, Real Estate developers and the (conservative) Liberal Party, explained publisher David Beers. That opens up an opportunity for an alternative voice, he said.

Beers was speaking on a panel I ran on "community site sustainability" at Media Giraffe, a community journalism conference held June 29-July 1 at The University of Massachusetts in Amherst. Beers emphasized that while The Tyee (an Indian term for British Columbian salmon) is a liberal voice, it is intended to be every bit as mainstream as traditional newspapers.

"Indy media is not my model," said Beers, noting that indy media such as alternative weeklies "have no impact on the media ecology of British Columbia." Instead, The Tyee is entrepreneurially seeking support from donors, foundations, governmental cultural entities and local alternative advertisers.

Some of The Tyee's initial funding came from a venture cap fund that has traditionally supported Labor Party initiatives. "They see the potential for long-term alternative media," said Beers. Other funding came from philanthropy-minded organizations.

"Philanthropists of all stripes are interested in The Tyee," Beers said. "Or in parts of The Tyee. Maybe parts can focus on, say, local agriculture," given the province's high interest in organic farming and slow cooking.

The site has also partnered with The British Columbian Book Association, a $16,000 contract that has been matched by a government grant to promote Canadian culture. In addition, the site has Google ads and people donated $36,000 to keep the site going.

Now, with claims of 200,000 visits and 1 million page views a month, Beers said that The Tyee is ready to solicit advertising. "Unless you have 200,000 users," you can't really sell reach, he says. The advertising revenue will enable the site to hire staffers and promote itself.

Advertising is being sold for CPMs between $3 and $8 for an audience that Beers described as better educated and more sophisticated but with lower household income due to lifestyle priorities. Advertisers on the site today include a labor union, a writer's symposium and a folk music festival. Beers added that The Tyee’s next step is to add a local directory, which will probably launch in 3Q.

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