Here are a few tips for newspaper startups. For most newspaper start-ups today, a website is a key component, if not the main focus, of the business. These come from the perspective of someone has started, launched, invested-in and developed software tools for news publishing businesses.
1. Target a niche audience with original content
The old axiom still applies. Content is definitely "king" online. To be successful, you will need to identify a unique niche that is currently under served and that has strong potential for readership and advertisers that want to reach those readers. One time-honored approach to reaching a niche audience is to focus geographically on hyper-local news as community newspapers have for years. Another approach is to identify a topic that may have a national or international audience in the form of people who follow that topic passionately and are happy to receive an email newsletter periodically with related news. Links in your newsletter will attract readers to your website and and steady traffic will ultimately attract advertisers. Generally, the stronger your ability to reach a niche audience, the higher rates you can command for your advertising inventory on your website.
2. Leverage recent technologies and trends
The good news is that the barriers to starting an online news website have never been lower. Daily advances in internet/web technology has steadily lowered the costs of purchasing and operating newspaper websites. Gone are the days of huge capital investment required to build your own custom software and data center for a news publishing start-up. Today, you can rely on readily available web-based services to launch your business.
A good example of this is in the area of marketing your news website. Social media is a relatively new tool that can be leveraged to drive a "content marketing" strategy for your website. Sounds sophisticated, but this really boils down to establishing a social identity for your busines on the major social networks (Facebook, Twitter, etc) and systematically posting links to content that will interest potential readers. You can think of your business's social network as a fan-club that supports and helps promote your website content.
Time is money. That is especially true when you're starting a new business, so it is especially important to carefully select tools and services that preserve and multiply your time commitment to the business. A good example of this is the tools that you use to publish your website. Yes, you could probably learn to code HTML by hand and use FTP to upload individual web pages to your website, but is this the best use of your time? Modern news publishing tools understand the business of news publishing and are designed to make your life easier. For example, you should be able to create news content once and have it immediately available on all platforms: web, mobile and email editions. The software should understand the role of reporters, editors and business leaders and apply that to simplify the workflow of gathering and reporting news. Most news website providers will also offer a selection of turn-key newspaper website templates that can have you up and running with your site in minutes.
These are just a few examples of using technology to your business advantage. There are many more.
3. Have a formal business model
Oddly enough, many businesses still launch without a clear plan to achieve success. Modeling income/expenses for at least 12 months into the future will help you make critical decisions such as when your can add hire additional staff or provide additional coverage areas. Many business fail due to being overly optimistic about their ability to "cash-flow" their business model. A good model will help you avoid that trap.
4. Be ready to work hard and make sacrifices
Like any business start-up, your chances for success are directly proportional to the passion that you have for the work. If you don't get excited by getting the scoop on other competitive news providers, you probably don't want to start a news based business.
It's not uncommon for news entrepreneurs to be the reporter, editor and publisher as their business grows. Only passion will carry through the hard work, late nights, missed family time and financial sacrifice that is often required to get a new business off the ground.
5. You can do it
Its not uncommon for aspiring news entrepreneurs to become overwhelmed by the sheer volume of new challenges that come with starting a business. We tend to think of people that start successful businesses as having super-hero powers, but I assure you, most of them started out as ordinary people with a strong passion for a business idea. Maybe is the inept news coverage that your local media is providing on a critical issue that gets you going. Maybe its a passion for music, art or something much more arcane. Whatever it is that sparks your flame, nuture it and it grow into the fire that burns brightly and carries you forward to success.
Thanks for reading and let us know if we can help you with your news based business.