Have you ever heard the phrase, “preparation is the key?”
Well when it comes to building a news media startup, preparation is the key. It is important to know where you stand in the scheme of things and the changes that are happening in the real world.
Who is your audience? What are you offering? What are your ethics? What are your goals? Those are just a few of the many things to figure out before you launch your business.
If you’re looking for a roadmap, a good one is Chapter Three of the Tow-Knight Center’s New Business Models for News Toolkit. It offers the basic steps and strategies you need to learn in order to turn your news outlet business plan into a reality.
A few pre-launch basic questions that stuck out to me:
1. Content: How much content will you produce? Good question. Generally, in a startup, you are not going to have many employees to produce content. News media sites need more than one person to produce and acquire content. A news media site is more than a blog, it is a service and services need people in order to be successful.
2. Distribution: How do you plan to publish your content or distribute your services and ads? Will you use third-party platforms, such as Facebook, or various ad services? Money, money, money. Distribution takes money and when you are first starting out what do you not have much of––money. But of course you cannot spend all of your money on distribution, you have to take care of your employees and yourself as well. So how do you pick and choose where to distribute or advertise your company? In the end, I guess it all comes down to what makes the most sense in terms of who your audience is.
3. People: How much time and expertise will you have available to run your business––to get the revenue you need? This question resembles number one, but let’s look at it from another perspective. Who is behind the scenes and what can they do that you cannot? In order to create a well-balanced team, you need to look at everybody’s strengths and weaknesses to figure out what their role is going to be in the company. If you can, you should try and build or manage your site internally so that you are not spending additional money outsourcing. Whatever your company does on its own, will save you money and allow you to make more revenue.
4. Who are your competitors? Especially in the news media business, there are thousands of small sites waiting for their big break. I think it is important to know and understand who your competitors are. What are they doing that your business cannot and how are they distributing their content (assuming they have the same audience)?
While these are all good steps and strategies to really think about when making your business plan, it is also important to understand and be true to your values that your company represents.
Ken Doctor tells us in Newsonomics: Rebuilding news media will require doubling-down on its core values that startup news media sites must bring new ideas to their brands while remaining ethically responsible in accordance to principle.
For example, seek the truth and report it, is a phrase we hear quite a lot as journalists, but in a society full of #FakeNews, how do we convince our audience that we are accurate and factual?
One of the things that this article said is “show, don’t tell, impact.” Show your audience why a story matters from a local standpoint. Make your stories stand out and make an impact on people.
Now that we have gone over a few of the basic components to keep in mind when first starting a news media business, you are just about ready to launch your first startup.