Nieman Foundation at Harvard
HOME
          
LATEST STORY
Thriving on change
ABOUT                    SUBSCRIBE
July 7, 2009, 8:25 a.m.

If you were starting a news organization, where would you put your initial efforts?

notebookI’m continuing my response to Phil Buckley’s excellent question: “If you were starting a news organization today, where would put your initial efforts?”  (Previously)

A from-scratch news organization today would, of course, be an online-first enterprise. That doesn’t rule out print as a niche byproduct, but print would not be among the “initial efforts.”

So let’s focus on digital strategies and tactics, beginning with the easier ones:

  • Even if you plan a print spinoff, like a weekly newspaper (or even a daily), lead with your dot-com brand. The URL should be the biggest thing on your business cards, your sales materials, the sign on your offices — everything.
  • Be clear about your geography. Every day I come upon local news sites with no indication what city or state they’re based in. (Where is this site published? Where in New Jersey is this one? Where in oil country is The Derrick? What’s so hard about adding “Lewiston, Maine,” “Newton, New Jersey,” or “Oil City, Pennsylvania”?) Remember that sites all over the world may link to your content. Tell those visitors where they’ve arrived.
  • Make it easy for people to reach you: publish a clear, accessible directory under “Contact Us,” with everyone’s e-mail, phone extension, cell phone and Twitter handle.  Amazingly enough, some sites still omit “Contact Us” entirely. Others make it damned hard to find.
  • Include plenty of links in posts and stories, both inbound and outbound. It’s what makes the web go round.
  • Strongly encourage news staff to jump into comment threads and talk with readers. We do that here at NiemanLab, and it’s what turns commenting in conversation.
  • Strongly encourage news staff to Tweet and blog, as well.

Not so easy, but still essential.

  • Once your staff is wading in the conversational waters by dropping into comment threads, set up scheduled and impromptu real-time interactive opportunities like the Washington Post does.
  • Stop thinking about posting stories. Instead, organize your content management as a cascade; let it flow from raw input into Tweets, social networks and blogs; distill it into a wiki; repurpose it into podcasts,  print and niche products.
  • Have one big happy staff focused on the digital product — don’t separate digital operations from print or anything else. (Consider the Cedar Rapids system, in which a core team of journalists produces content for Web, print and broadcast.)
  • Make it easy for everyone — news sources, advertisers, readers — to do business with you online. Anything they can do with you by mail, over the phone, or in person, they should be able to do online, quickly and easily. This lets them do business with you on their schedule, anytime during the 168 hours there are in a week, not just in the 40 or so your office is officially staffed. Keep testing this: can a customer get an answer to a question, pay a bill, place an ad, submit a news tip, or find staff contact info anytime, day or night?

Complex or possibly expensive:

Your turn: If you were starting a news organization today, where would you put your initial efforts?

Photo by Matt Hintsa, used under Creative Commons License.

POSTED     July 7, 2009, 8:25 a.m.
SHARE THIS STORY
   
Show comments  
Show tags
 
Join the 45,000 who get the freshest future-of-journalism news in our daily email.
Thriving on change
“The age of automatic deference in the workplace is over. Are individuals able to speak up and be heard? Do managers and colleagues alike reach deep into teams to collect ideas and exploit expertise? Has a culture of experimentation permeated everywhere?”
Looking for loyalty in all the right places
“We’ve come to realize that one-time visitors — effectively the one-night stands of the media world — provide little more than the cheap thrills of banner-ad dollars. And chasing comScore uniques isn’t very fulfilling. But a meaningful connection with our audience? That’s #relationshipgoals.”
Working together toward sustainable solutions
“I think people want to be effective news consumers, and they’ll take on the responsibility to become highly media literate. People don’t like being conned or lied to, but to a great extent, that’s what’s happened over the last year, particularly by disreputable sources that were amplified on social media.”