This past weekend, I attended the LION Publishers Conference here in Chicago. LION stands for Local Independent Online News. The majority of news sites there were mainstream news. They often function like a local daily newspaper. In a few cases, they were the only daily news source for their towns.
However, that wasn’t the only type of news site that was there. There were also local cultural news sites, online alt-weeklies, investigative watchdogs and news services for distinct social communities. And I wasn’t the only one representing a largely gay publication with Project Q Atlanta’s publisher attending. I have to admit, it was really good to be seen as a peer and the respect the Den got for what it does on a daily basis. They all understood the drive to publish and cover the communities. None of us did it for money. We do it for love of community and a need to inform. Mind you, money would be nice. But that’s not what drives us.
The conference is to help small publishers like us to meet, network and get ideas for content and revenue. And we all did. We also got very excited for what we do and how we can help make our sites better sources of information and better serve our communities.
With that in mind, and taking from what I’ve learned at the conference, we’ll be making a few changes with both the Great Lakes Den and its sister site The Illinois Eagle. Don’t worry, they’ll be good ones.
First, we’re not going to be putting every single event we find into the main blog feed anymore. We will still put events in the regular publishing schedule, but any events that are repeat events, like monthly or weekly munches, sloshes and classes will go onto our calendar. Special events or events that submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org or through our submissions page will still be published on the main page, but the day to day stuff will go to the calendar. Which, after all the gathering of every leather, bear and kink social calendar we could find, may actually be one of the most complete in the country. There is literally something going on somewhere in the Midwest every single day. Y’all are busy.
Second, the stories that go up will be actual news stories. Sometimes lighthearted, sometimes more serious, but we will try to make sure we carry actual news. We’ll still cover bears and kink in the region but also try to cover LGBTQ, women’s, POC and other social justice issues. And while we will run the occasional bit of national news, we will always have the region first in our coverage. Plus, we will never NOT have bears and leather as a part of our coverage. That is how we started and it is still our core. Everything else we cover will be because those issues do intersect with the bear, leather and kink communities in so many ways.
We’re also going to try to start actively investing in the sites and the community. I’m making plans for new a new marketing push that will get news out to more people in the community who haven’t quite heard of us yet. As soon as we’re able, we’ll also be paying people for what they write for both the Den and the Eagle. I can’t say how much but I do want to pay at least a token to those who put in the time and effort to write our news and opinion content.
Of course, to do that, we also need more money coming in. As always, we still welcome contributions to our Patreon. The donations we receive there already make it possible for us to pay for our server space and social media management. But we want to do more if we’re going to make the investments in the community that we want. We’re now looking at ad systems that could potentially bring more money in to the sites. We’ll be changing up our affiliate ads. We’re also going to offer new opportunities for sponsorship outside of the regular ad rotation. We’ve already started setting aside space on our calendar page and state pages for sponsorships. Businesses and individuals will be able to support coverage in the areas they consider most important. We’ll also be looking at how to expand our newsletter, giving people an option for daily, weekly and breaking news options, including sponsorships.
We’ll also be adding more to the Eagle as well. That site will get a calendar page of its own and we’re going to look at the possibility of a email newsletter for it as well.
All of these will take some time. But I do want all of you let me know what you want to see on the sites. Tell me what news is happening in your area that needs to be covered. What issues are most important to you. Where you want us to go. While I may be the publisher, this is your newspaper. If it isn’t serving you, then it isn’t doing its job.
We’re gonna be starting on a whole new ride. And I want you all to come along.