• David M Kirby
  • How to Build a Solid Foundation For Your News Publication or Blog
How to Build a Solid Foundation For Your News Publication or Blog
Contributor
Written by
David M Kirby
February 2016
Contributor
Written by
David M Kirby
February 2016

Journalism students and writing enthusiasts all over the globe dream about starting their own publication. For anyone who has ever written freelance for a length of time, I’m sure you’ve felt that pull to finally take the reins. When you’re the boss, you are on the ground floor developing the editorial voice of an upcoming news outlet.

At this point in the game, chances are you’re the only one writing for your fledgling publication. Don’t be discouraged. Nearly everyone starts where you are right now, and is the time for you to lay your groundwork. You need to have your proverbial ducks in a row. This includes buying a domain, building your website, and putting together a business plan. How much money you’ll need up-front largely depends on your approach. Will you use a tried and true platform like WordPress or Squarespace, or pay to have a custom platform build according to your needs and specifications?

Spend time perfecting the ever-important User Experience (UX) of your site. If it isn’t easy to navigate or particularly aesthetically pleasing, it could turn future readers away from you. In a similar vein, it is important to understand before you begin what kind of content you will publish. Start with the end in mind. Ultimately, what will be the signature flavor of your publication?

You need to decide what kind of content you will produce, how frequently you will create it, and who will be helping you with the process. Doing it all yourself will be cheaper up-front, but never forget that time is money. The more time you spend writing, editing, and managing every aspect of your site the less time you’ll have to actually grow your brand or, y’know, have a life.

All three of these factors need to be nailed down. If you’re focused as an automotive industry news site, publishing articles about My Little Pony probably isn't a great option - unless that Pony is actually a muscle car.

How often do you post new material? Do you produce and post content daily or weekly? Will you write it all yourself, or can you afford to hire help?

It is my recommendation to hold off on opening your site to guest posts and guest contributors until you become established. Unless you already have a relationship with them and can safely say otherwise, guest contributors generally don’t produce consistent content. Many have their own agendas for writing for you, and your plans may or may not align with them.

Focus on finding and hiring talented individuals. Experience and skill can be developed over time, but only if their passions and goals align with yours. Bring aboard writers and journalists who have innate strengths and positive characteristics that your publication will benefit from. Everyone likes to feel valued and respected. Focusing on your staff’s natural strengths will help them stay engaged in the job and want to continue putting their most productive foot forward.

“Placing workers in environments that mesh well with their values, support needs, work-life goals and ongoing development leads to success.” - Sunil Bagai

When it comes to winning a readership, stack the deck in your favor as often as possible. You need to give your potential readers every reason in the world to choose your publication over someone else. Think about what sets you apart.

Are your videos exceptional quality? Is your team comprised of award-winning journalists? Does your niche represent an underserved population? Choose your initial target demographic wisely and deliver original content to that audience. It is easy to fall into the trap of writing about the same things everyone else is, but you must avoid it at all costs.

Once you have found success and have an audience, you can widen your focus from there. Understand that you can have the most compelling piece of media in the world, but it does you no good if no one is reading and watching. In this day and age, a profound part of earning and maintaining an audience is through online social interactions.

Every major news outlet that I am aware of has active social media sharing platforms. This includes sites like Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram. Social media can be a double-edged sword. It opens your publication to a much broader audience and provide tremendous growth. The sense of immediacy that social media provides means that you’ll hear feedback much more often - both positive and negative. How you handle this feedback will make a difference.

If you receive negative feedback on a particular column or news piece, stay calm. If the criticism is irrational or hateful, you might be better off ignoring it. If a reader expresses a valid concern, it is perfectly acceptable for the author of the piece to engage with them. The best approach is often to thank them for taking the time to participate, and possibly ask for more information on their view. When you approach them professionally, you can take steps to clarify the situation or the editorial stance of the publication.

Likewise, remember to engage your audience when they leave positive feedback as well. It is easy to slip into the habit of only responding to comments during damage control, but remember that this is an opportunity. If they leave you great feedback, then congratulations! Thank them and encourage them to continue participating. The result of these social interactions can win you lifelong readers and help you grow your startup news publication.

 

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