New Jersey Spotlight: Project Summary

NJ Spotlight is a five year old news service focusing on public policy issues in New Jersey and how these policies affect local communities. The majority of their readers are business leaders, policymakers, activists, bureaucrats and politicians. They were named the best online news publication in the state by the NJ SPJ this year.

Spotlight proposes to put on a one-day multi-tracked event entitled “The Symposium for NJ Cities,” using the state’s premier venue, the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark. The Symposium will focus on issues of interest to the state’s many urban centers. New Jersey has a number of sizable cities—15 with populations of more than 50,000, not including numerous sprawling suburban municipalities with populations of about 100,000.

Two of them, Newark and Jersey City, are among the top 75 cities by population in the country. These cities are often overlooked since they are sandwiched between New York and Philadelphia. This symposium would gather local, state, and even national leaders together to share plans, success stories and discuss needs of New Jersey cities. They plan to include some fun elements as well as engaging public policy celebrities such as Senator Cory Booker, mayors and Congressional reps.

The focus is to develop audience, so they will be crowdsourcing their readers to help plan the agenda, and run a pre-event contest for poster design, videos and photos to generate buzz and engage potential new audiences. They will sell sponsorships and charge admission, with an expected attendance of 200.

Based on previous one-day, single topic events, they feel this is a realistic number. They also have interest from several planning organizations who want to participate and help plan to meeting, such as NJ Future and Citizen’s Campaign of New Jersey. If this is successful in both revenue generation and new audience, they would like to make this a yearly event.

What knowledge will be gained from this experiment?

The NJ Spotlight team says it hopes to make this into an annual event, providing a regular stream of income as well as an avenue for social engagement.

To grow as a nonprofit, the team says it needs more NJ Spotlight-branded products (such as events) to attract advertisers and sponsors. Advertising alone is not enough—the revenue from advertising relies on traffic and the loyalty of a niche audience.

Event sponsorships are currently limited to one topic roundtables, i.e. “How to Make NJ More Energy Efficient”, “The Future of Long term Care”, “Tackling New Jersey’s Water Woes.” Given its small staff, NJ Spotlight says it can only do a limited number of these events per year. The nonprofit sees this project as an opportunity to broaden those topics and expand the number of events it can offer to attract additional revenue.