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By   /   Friday, December 12th, 2008  /   Comments Off on Click to continue

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Online news start-ups in the Tri-Counties are looking for donations from loyal readers as well as community support to keep them operating through the next year.

With signs pointing to a weak start to 2009, it could be an important survival strategy for small online publications that are trying to build brand loyalty on shoestring budgets.

Trying to get a news organization up and running comes as some of the nation’s and region’s largest news organizations are in deep trouble. Tribune Co., owner of the Los Angeles Times, has sought bankruptcy protection, while the Ventura County Star and the Santa Barbara News-Press both have announced substantial layoffs and restructurings in recent weeks.

Santa Barbara-based started experimenting with a donation program, called Hawks Club, at the end of November. It was a move not drawn out of necessity, but from the demand of the company’s supporters, said the company’s management.

“Our idea was reader-driven,” editor and founder Bill MacFadyen said. “We’ve had a number of people ask how we can help without sponsoring a section or buying an ad.” He said about 100 donations have been received since the program’s start, even though the news organization is technically not a non-profit.

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