Inside LINK: We’re asking for money

Lacy Starling
Lacy Starling
Lacy is the president and CEO of LINK nky. Email her at [email protected]

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Inside LINK is a weekly column from our CEO, Lacy Starling. If you have questions you’d like Lacy to answer, email her at [email protected].

In this column, I’m going to ask you for money.

Forgive my bluntness, but my parents always taught me that in matters of money, it’s best to just be straightforward. If you love what we do and want to skip reading the rest of this (rather long) column, you can give us your money right here.

But I also know that to ask you to give your hard-earned money to us, I need to demonstrate that we live up to our Guiding Principle of Good Stewardship. Basically, I need to prove that I won’t waste your money on fancy dinners and private planes.

So today, I’m going to pull back the curtain on what it costs to run LINK, and how the money that has been raised so far has been spent. And I’ll keep it simple, so you don’t have to be a finance major to follow along.

First, some framing. LINK has been in business for just over a year. In that time, we’ve done the following:

  • Sent the Daily LINK email more than 260 times
  • Sent a reporter to live in Frankfort and cover our legislative caucus
  • Launched linknky.com
  • Printed five editions of the LINK Reader, our free, bi-monthly print publication
  • Mailed those five editions to every single household in NKY
  • Covered every single competitive race in the primary and general election in NKY
  • Had live election night coverage for both the primary and general election
  • Started the Kentucky Side and the LINK Daily Headlines podcasts
  • Moved to a bigger office
  • Hired 14 people, and brought on more than 28 contributors to cover NKY
  • Published more than 3,700 stories about our community
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There’s more, but you get the picture. We’ve been incredibly busy in the past 12 months, giving NKY back the news it deserves. And none of that is cheap. (Okay, our furniture is cheap. We’ve furnished two offices and paid for a move and our total bill was less than $2,500.)

In that same time period, we’ve brought in nearly a million dollars in revenue, from a combination of advertising, sponsorships and grants from the NKY Community Journalism Fund.

The revenue split is about 55% advertising, 33% sponsorships and 12% grants. Advertising and sponsorship money can be used to pay for anything inside the company. Grants from the CJF can only be used to pay for public-interest journalism, like our election coverage and the salaries of our news reporters.

That money has gone to pay for many things, but the biggest line items are as follows:

  • More than half our income – over $500,000 – has gone to pay salaries, benefits, and payroll taxes for our 14 employees. People are, and always will be, the biggest expense in our budget. Seventy percent of our staff are editorial, meaning the majority of that money is spent on reporting, not sales or administration.
  • Printing and mailing the five bi-monthly LINK Reader editions cost us more than $240,000, postage being the most significant part of that. Mailing 167,000 copies times five issues is not cheap.
  • Another $103,000 has gone to paying our contributors and contract workers, the folks who write a lot of stories, produce our podcasts, and help design and produce our paper.
  • We’ve spent about $45,000 to design, build and continue to host our website, as our visitors increase, that becomes more expensive.
  • Other significant expenses include our software stack, insurance, and rent. Those range between $15,000 and $19,000, each, the past year.
  • We’ve only spent $8,000 on advertising, which is about the same as we’ve spent on furniture and office supplies. We balance our excessive coffee consumption (we drink Dunkin from a $20 Mr. Coffee machine) by only buying IKEA furniture.
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So, lots of money in, most of that money back out. We’re about at break-even for the year, which is our goal. But we want to do more – more reporting, more telling of the important stories of NKY.

And this is where I ask you for money. (I warned you.)

We’ve had a great first year. We’ve covered NKY in a way that it hasn’t been covered in more than a decade. But we want to do more. We want to be able to hire reporters to cover education, healthcare, infrastructure and other specific subject areas. And of course, we want to be able to maintain the staff we’ve already hired to do public-interest reporting.

In order to do that, we need to bring more money into the NKY Community Journalism Fund. We already have folks who donate generously to us every month, quarter, or year, and we are so grateful for that. But if you don’t already donate, and you want to see more coverage of the issues that matter, I’d encourage you to consider it.

Even $5 a month helps us continue to bring you high-quality, hyper-local news.

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