When we launched Berkeleyside in October last year, we had ambitions to develop it into a sustainable, valuable news site for Berkeley. Our strategy has been to improve it steadily, and plan on strong, organic growth of readership and community involvement in the site.

Today we’re taking an important next step with the introduction of advertising on Berkeleyside. We’re hugely grateful to our four initial sponsors: the Berkeley Rep, Carolyn Jones-Grubb Co, Alameda Victorians Realty and Susan Helmrich/Health & Wellness Matters.

Why are we becoming a commercial site? Even after only six months of work, we get heartening feedback from our readers about how valuable Berkeleyside is in keeping them up-to-date with what’s happening in their city. Testament to that are our readership numbers which are growing rapidly and exponentially.

A place as rich and varied as Berkeley deserves a vibrant, thriving local media. Berkeleyside will only be sustainable over the long term by producing enough revenue to justify the time and effort of its founders and contributors, all of whom currently do other work for a living. We recognize that it may take a long time to reach a truly sustaining level of revenue, but it’s what we are aiming for in order to make possible the wealth of reporting we know our readers want to see.

We have no idea whether that goal is realizable. Local media on the web is in a fascinating pre-Cambrian stage of evolution. There are many business models being tried and we’re far too early in the evolution to know which will succeed and which will prove dead ends. We’re optimistic, but realistic about our future. We recognize, as well, that the only way any medium thrives is by having engaged readers. In that respect we have already found early success and relish the fact it is our readers who provoke the debate and spark the conversations that make Berkeleyside come alive.

Berkeleyside aims to be the central news site and a community service for our city. To help us in our endeavor we look forward to welcoming many more sponsors on board and thank you in advance for your support.

Lance Knobel (Berkeleyside co-founder) has been a journalist for nearly 40 years. Much of his career was in business journalism. He was editor-in-chief of both Management Today, the leading business magazine...