Posts Tagged ‘ business ’

Steps for Journalism Entrepeneurs

So, you’re fed up with the news industry and thinking about starting a news website. Sure, many people get lucky and stumble into into entrepreneurship, but there is a greater chance of success if you start with a plan.

Starting a news website requires its own step-by-step process, combining the aspects of business and journalism.

Robert Niles from MediaShift shares his checklist for starting an online news website:

The name:

☐ Select a name for your publication
Pick a name for which you can obtain the “.com” domain of the publication name, without spaces or special characters such as hyphens. It should be easy to spell, and easy to remember.

☐ Register your domain name
Once you’ve selected a name, don’t hesitate to register it with a domain registrar, such as GoDaddy or Network Solutions.

☐ Open a business checking account
Open a bank account as soon as you have a business name. Separating your business account from your personal account will help with accounting, taxes and projecting a professional image to customers.

☐ Register a fictitious business name.
Banks often can help you do this when you set up your business checking account, which is another reason to take that step immediately.

☐ Trademark your name
No lawyer is needed to trademark a website name. Simply follow the steps on the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office website. All of the paperwork can be filed online. The process takes months, but it’s worth it.

Getting operational

☐ Select a calendar app or system to record deadlines, meetings and assigned tasks. This helps keep track of key dates and tasks as you move forward.

☐ Secure office space
You need a place to work. Even if you work at home, you need to set aside space that’s just for your work. That has a tax advantage, as well, as you might be able to deduct dedicated work space within your home, especially if you rent. Out-of-home office space can be a better bet for many entrepreneurs, though (especially “hyperlocal” publishers), as a “real office” demonstrates that you are serious participant in the local business community.

☐ Obtain equipment
At minimum:

  • Laptop computer
  • Mobile phone (with e-mail and Web access)
  • Digital camera
  • Video camera (with tripod and mic for better production values)
  • Digital audio recorder (be sure it can sync with your computer to upload audio files)

☐ Get insurance
You’ll need libel insurance, as well as insurance for your workspace and equipment. Visit the Online Media Legal Network before you proceed, too, so you’ll know where to go should you get into legal entanglements in the course of your reporting.

☐ Review publishing systems and select one
Here’s one review of content management systems popular with start-up news websites. If you’re simply looking to blog, and want to start ASAP, there’s always Blogger, too. E-mail small publishers you admire or your LinkedIn network for advice. This decision’s too important to leave to a single website article or Google search.

☐ Select a hosting provider
You’ll want a hosting provider with extensive experience supporting the CMS you’ve selected, which is why I listed that step first. Again, rely on recommendations from colleagues and friends to guide you.

☐ Install publishing system, if necessary
Depending upon the hosting package you select, you might need to install the CMS software yourself. Delve into your hosting provider’s support forums, or throw yourself upon the mercy of its support staff. If your hosting provider doesn’t have either online support forums or a helpful support staff, you’ve picked the wrong host.

Starting up

☐ Design web templates
Once you have a CMS, you’ll need to customize it to reflect your website. Select an available theme, or design your own.

☐ Select a Web traffic analytic system and install tracking code in web template
Google Analytics is one example. It’s free and provides more than enough data for a small start-up’s needs.

☐ Create a Facebook page for your publication
Go to http://www.facebook.com/pages and click the “Create a Page” button. Be sure to add a prominent link to your Facebook page within your site template.

☐ Register a Twitter account
You probably have a personal Twitter account, but you should also register one for your publication, using its name. Always remember which account you’re logged into when you tweet!

☐ Create an e-mail list and online subscription form
Constant Contact is one example, but other options are available, as well. Using a third-party provider for e-mail will help you avoid bandwidth overload issue on your host’s e-mail servers, and keeps you from having to deal with the hassle of blacklist management.

☐ Design and print business cards
Sure, you’re a paperless online business. But leaving behind plenty of these “old school” artifacts is essential in building a network of clients, sources, customers and readers.

☐ Create a rate card
Potential advertisers will want to know how much you charge for their ads to appear on your site. So you’ll need to establish (and publish) a rate card listing your available packages and prices. That means that you’ll have to select ad sizes for placement within your site templates. (I recommend the Wide Skyscraper, Leaderboard and Medium Rectangle. Check out Google’s eyetracking heatmap for more detail on where to place your ads.) Determine a CPM (cost per thousands impressions) for those ads and do the math to create impression packages. You might choose to run persistent ads, rather than rotate. But you’ll still need fixed ad sizes and to do the math based on a site CPM to figure an appropriate price to charge.

☐ Create a media kit
You’ll need to describe your site, on a single page, to convince readers to read it, advertisers to support it and other journalists to report about it. Here’s the who, what, where, when and why about your new website. That’s your initial media kit. Plan to update your kit, as you gather more readership data, laudatory quotes and refine your site’s focus.

☐ Create a customer lead list
Who will you solicit to become advertisers or funders of your website? That’s your customer lead list. Gather contact information, then use your calendar to assign times to contact everyone on your list. And then, to contact them again.

☐ Create a promotional lead list
Who can you talk into writing about your site? At what events can you meet and recruit new readers? Where online can you promote the site, without looking like a spammer or scammer? List these promotional opportunities, then use your calendar to assign times to follow up on each opportunity.

 

Wow. It looks like starting a real online news site is not as easy as it seems. It’s a good thing places like CUNY Graduate School of Journalism and other universities are beginning to offer entrepreneurial journalism classes! I guess that goes to show you that starting a business is hard work, which is probably why so few entrepreneurial ideas are successful. Although it seems difficult, I’m sure it can be done. Perhaps one day I’ll put this check list to the test.

ProPublica: How Do They Afford It?

ProPublica is proud to be an independent, non-profit newsroom, but how do they manage to stay afloat?

According to the New York Times, the traditional model of journalism is changing.  Newspaper advertising revenue declines and technology are drastically changing the public’s relationship with news organizations.

In 2009, ad revenue was down 30 percent for some newspapers. The Times says that it is searching for new streams of money and opening itself to new ideas. In the old model, editors decided what news is, assign their own reporters and pay the expenses using ad revenue. Now, with ad revenue down, media outlets like The Times are trying to form a variety of partnerships and arrangements to fund stories.

This is exactly how ProPublica manages to stay in business.

In 2009, ProPublica published 138 news stories with 38 different partners. One of these was actually awarded a Pulitzer Prize.

When ProPublica publishes a story, the story does not just appear on the website.  ProPublica actually offers its stories offered to traditional news organizations, free of charge, for publication or for broadcast.

ProPublica also partners with major news organizations to produce stories. For instance, ProPublica partnered with CBS to do a report on questionable federal stimulus spending on airports. They worked hard to deliver a story free of any political bias.

But it doesn’t end there. ProPublica supports each story that it publishes with an active and aggressive follow up. This includes regularly contacting reporters, editors and bloggers, encouraging them to follow-up on ProPublica’s reporting, and to link to ProPublica’s work.

Interestingly, ProPublica does not just promote it’s own reporters’ stories. The ProPublica website site also features investigative reporting produced by others. ProPublica wants their website to only be a destination, but a tool for promoting good work in the journalism field.

But where is ProPublica getting the funds to do this type of reporting? Obviously, the Sandler Foundation has made a major, multi-year commitment to fund ProPublica. However, they don’t do it alone. ProPublica is trying to build a more sustainable business model and reduce its reliance on the Sandlers. Currently, ProPublica has a large group of supporters and philanthropic contributors such as the MacArthur Foundation and the Atlantic Philanthropies.

ProPublica has managed to perfect the art of securing donations. Their stories have to be sufficiently compelling to convince editors and producers to accord them space or time. By consistently delivering compelling stories, donors will be confident that professional standards are being met and maintained, and that important work is being done. Thus, they will be more willing to donate to ProPublica’s cause.

So, is this a model that could be implemented across the board?  Instead of desperately trying to save and adapt the current business model, is it time for a new one altogether?

It’s obvious that news outlets need to change and develop, in terms of what they cover, how they cover it, and how they reach their audience. It’s no secret that the Internet has revolutionized the way people follow the news, and it will undoubtedly continue to play a role in journalism practices. The idea of implementing payment for online news is an option, but has yet to show much success. For now, if newspapers and other media organizations want to function effectively, whether in print or online, they need to be creative in finding new ways to maintain sufficient staff and resources. Thankfully, an organization like ProPublica found a way to provide the American public with quality news stories despite these hard economic times. Let’s hope the rest of the journalism world can follow in its footsteps.