The local news industry is changing. But just because it’s not as profitable to start a newspaper anymore doesn’t mean you can’t build a business around the concept of sharing information with local residents.
Joe Thompson is an entrepreneur who knows what it’s like to run a local website. As the owner of The Valley Ledger, a local publication in the Lehigh Valley region of Pennsylvania and New Jersey, he’s learned the ins and outs of running a local website. If you’re interested in starting your own, take a look at the tips below.
How To Start a Local News Website Business
Create Consistent Branding
Before actually launching The Valley Ledger, Thompson says he was careful to make sure he could secure the same name for the site’s domain and every popular social media platform. This allowed him to keep the brand consistent and make it easier for people to actually find The Valley Ledger on each of the sites they actually use.
Stick With a Specific Mission
As you create your content and share information with your network, you’ll want to make sure that you keep it consistent so that readers know what to expect.
For Thompson and The Valley Ledger, that means sharing positive information about the Lehigh Valley. And Thompson says that staying true to that has made all the difference. He told Small Business Trends in an email, “Overall, we were very fortunate to be able to quickly be recognized as a source of positive information for the Lehigh Valley. Our willingness to freely promote others led to quick success. We have also stayed true to our mission to only share positive information about the Lehigh Valley area.”
Build a Network
To share information about local groups, businesses or causes, you need to create a network that will allow you to easily access that information. That means you need to get your name out there and build trust with local newsmakers so they’ll send you press releases and other relevant information. A lot of this will simply evolve over time as you build your reputation.
Thompson says, “In the first year, it was amazing to get three press releases a week. Two and a half years later it is nothing to get three or more press releases a day.”
Get the Word Out
You also need to find ways to get the word out to potential readers and followers. You can use social media, online ads and other digital marketing methods. But sometimes you can also use more traditional marketing tactics to reach people on a local level.
Thompson offered one example, “In the first year, we had the opportunity to trade advertising on the site for advertising at events. That really helped push our name out even further. As the site continues to grow so does the ability to sell ad space on the site.”
Build a Staff
When you first get started, it might be your only option to build your site as a one-person operation. But Thompson says that as you grow, it’s unrealistic to think that you can do it all on your own. That might mean hiring official employees or simply finding contributors or others who can help you on other levels.
Thompson says, “From the time I started the site it has gone from just myself, to seven regular contributors, six photographers, many one-time contributors, two content editors and a growing list of sources for press releases.”
Using Computer Photo via Shutterstock
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