Berkeleyside is the first news organization in the country to have mobilized a direct public offering, or DPO, raising $1 million from its readers.
According to Frances Dinkelspiel, co-founder of Berkeleyside, the DPO took about two years to complete. Berkeleyside raised funds by hosting house parties, publishing articles about the DPO and directly talking to people to inform them of the campaign, Dinkelspiel said.
The DPO was done to get Berkeleyside to a “point of stability,” Dinkelspiel said. She added that people who read the paper know how important it is to have a local news site.
Dinkelspiel said the DPO’s success has “larger implications” for the crisis of local news and added that DPOs are a way to get readers to invest in and support local news.
“We have been raising funds paying for Berkeleyside mostly through advertising and membership initially, but then we heard about direct public offerings and how the state of California manages those,” Dinkelspiel said.
According to Dinkelspiel, the funds have been used at Berkeleyside to redesign the site, make the mobile site more user-friendly and hire another reporter and a membership coordinator to expand its membership program. She added that these were all ways for the organization to grow its capital.
Donors, on average, donated $3,000 to the DPO, and all the donations ranged from $1,000 to $100,000, Dinkelspiel said.
Berkeleyside is now working with Sonoma West Times & News to help it with its DPO, Dinkelspiel said.
According to Rollie Atkinson, publisher of Sonoma West Times & News, Sonoma West’s DPO launched three weeks ago. He added that Sonoma West is confident in the DPO’s success.
Sonoma West reached out after it saw the news about Berkeleyside’s DPO and now wants to raise $400,000, according to Tracey Taylor, co-founder of Berkeleyside. She added that Berkeleyside was happy to help.
“Newspapers everywhere have to strengthen our community. The community can’t take the newspaper for granted, and the newspaper can’t take its community for granted,” Atkinson said. “The newspaper has a lot of work to do for its community, you know, getting them involved with issues important to them.”
One of the donors to the Berkeleyside DPO, Jessica Broitman, said she is a subscriber and regular reader of Berkeleyside news. She added that she believes in its purpose and reporting.
“We need honest, unbought sources of news. Especially something well-written, well-researched and poignant to my community,” Broitman said. “When something was happening, like a helicopter flying over my neighborhood or fire trucks going off, I needed to know why this was happening, and I could always turn to them.”