Want to Monetize your Blog? Look at Brooklyn Based

Brooklyn Based is a neighborhood blog and e-newsletter that covers events, restaurants, and all things Brooklyn. The blog was founded in 2007 by writer and editor Nicole Davis, who now runs Brooklyn Based with partners Annaliese Griffin and Chrysanthe Tenentes. Last week managing editor Chrysanthe Tenentes (who is also the community manager at Foursquare) told us how “a bootstrapped, female-run local company” found a “business model beyond just selling ads.”
Tenentes met Davis at a meetup for Brooklyn Based readers and started pitching ideas. When Davis’ husband was transferred to London for work, she asked Tenentes (and fellow Brooklynite Annaliese Griffin) to be her partners.
Covering the Brooklyn leisure scene was a natural fit for the Williamsburg resident. “I’m a researcher at heart,” said Tenentes, who was a history major in college. “It didn’t occur to me that I was doing something that could be an actual business.” When the subjects of her stories started turning up in major New York publications that didn’t usually cover Brooklyn, Tenentes realized she might be on to something.
With a solid editorial background, but not much advertising experience, the team took surveys of local advertisers and found that a lot of them still advertised in print. “We spent the first year or so pitching local businesses,” Tenentes said. “Then people started coming to us.” Today they market their site with a combination of banner ads and live events.
Tenentes revealed the secrets of their success (after the jump):

1. “We curate our ads as much as we curate our editorial content.”
All of Brooklyn Based’s ads come from “places our readers know and care about” and are paired with articles that are “short and fun to read,” Tenentes said. Rather than making “another hyper-local watchdog” publication, Tenentes said she and her partners focus on feature articles that highlight only the best that Brooklyn has to offer.
2. “We find that banner ads perform better in e-mails.”
With over 12,000 newsletter subscribers Tenentes says the open rate of their e-mails “hovers between 70-80%…we get two to three times the industry standard” and “our clickthrough rates are between 2 and 10%. Most online ads are around 0.1 – 0.3%.” She attributes their success to their authenticity as a Brooklyn-run publication and the fact that they “don’t over-saturate” their readers’ inboxes. Other publications run by “big, corporate dogs don’t feel local,” she said. “There’s a hole in the market and the inbox is gold.”
3. Live events like Drinks on the Doc and The Unfancy Food Show give the writers more interaction with their readers and their readers a reason to sign up for the newsletter. Held at the Bell House, Drinks on the Doc pairs film screenings with cheap beer. The Unfancy Food Show, which happened in June and was also held at the Bell House, included “music, food, cheap beers, air conditioning” and an “awesome rag tag band of food pirates.” Other events include Wedding Crashers, a wedding fair with all-Brooklyn vendors, and The Total Franklin Street Immersion , a restaurant and shop crawl in Greenpoint.
4. They’re also selling tote bags for $12 on the BB shop.

It’s not quit-your-day-job kind of cash, but Tenentes says they make enough to pay themselves and their contributors, Alicia Kachmar, Nina Pearlman and Rachael Rakes. Besides, Tenentes said, “I love my job at Foursquare.”