The roots to CountyNewsLIVE.com go back to a blog created on March 6, 2008 focused on the tiny rural Missouri town Berger, Missouri. The blog was named BergerWithCheese.com. The blog was founded by Jeff Noedel, a new resident of Berger. Noedel dedicated the blog to the memory of his grandfather, Herbert A. Noedel (1894 to 1985). His grandfather was born near Berger and was raised in the small river town. The elder Noedel left Berger near the time of the beginning of WWI.
Prior to 2006, Jeff Noedel lived virtually his whole life in either St. Louis or Kansas City, Missouri, with a brief time in Biloxi, Mississippi.
When Jeff Noedel created BergerWithCheese.com, then aged 48, he had owned and operated a public relations firm in St. Louis for 22 years. Clients had included a supermarket chain, a large Missouri Bank, and several famous national food brands. Noedel's father, Larry Noedel, had been prominent in the St. Louis advertising agency industry.
So BergerWithCheese.com (BWC) was a new experience for Jeff Noedel in several ways: it was Noedel's first news outlet and first jouranlism job, and it was the first time Noedel wrote in-depth on the subject of American rural life.
BWC quickly found an audience larger than the 206 people who lived in Berger. BWC was a mixture of gentle nature photos and rough-and-tumble small-town politics, the politics of a town withering-away from a shrinking economic base. While Noedel enjoyed news blogging, he saw no potential for a profit from BWC. Friends had been encouraging him to invest his energy on covering news in Hermann, Missouri, with a population 10 times larger than Berger and a robust tourism economy. Being county seat of Gasconade County and one of the most successful tourism towns in the Midwest, there was no shortage of news to cover in Hermann. By the autumn of 2008, BergerWithCheese.com traffic was being folded into a new news property named HermannMuenster.com.
In the summer of 2009, a local couple invested in Hermann Muenster but by late November 2009 the relationship between Noedel and the couple had deteriorated. Noedel opened CountyNewsLIVE.com LLC on Jan. 4, 2010. It, too, operated from Hermann, Missouri.
CountyNewsLIVE.com (CNL) grew steadily throughout 2010 and 2011. By late 2010, all available data CNL indicated it was had the largest audience for a "pure play" online news outlet based in any Missouri town under 10,000 population.
In 2011, all available data indicated that CNL had achieved the highest per capita ad sales for a pure play online news outlet in rural Missouri, and likely one of the highest ad sales per capita rates in rural America. In 2011, CNL collected well over $3.00 in local ad revenue for every man, woman and child that lived in Hermann, Missouri.
Indeed, maximizing local ad revenue is one of Noedel's driving missions. While CNL has had notable success with a "paywall" (300 subscruption sold at $24.95 per year for premium CNL content), Noedel sees no alternative to local ad sales as the basic model that will work for local news in the future.
Noedel also wants CNL to be an innovator in local advertising because most of his career was in the fields of advertising, public relations, and marketing.
On May 16, 2011, the CNL brand became a network with the opening of its second news property in Montgomery County, Missouri to the immediate north of Gasconade County. In November 2011, CNL began opening an outlet in Lincoln County, to the northeast of Gasconade County. And in January 2012, CNL is opening its fourth Missouri outlet in Warren County.
Noedel sees 2012 as the pivotal year for CNL. He plans for additional growth of CNL in 2012, including opening outlets outside of Missouri.
To read a 4Q 2011 review of CountyNewsLIVE.com by the Columbia School of Journalism "News Frontier Database," click here.