The advent of the internet has largely changed the way we consume news. Thanks to platforms like Google News, news consumers can now find articles on pretty much any topic they want, as soon as it’s published. In fact, with tens of thousands of articles published every day, it’s quite likely that whatever you want to write about already exists somewhere online, and you just need to find it.
This presents a marketing opportunity for content creators: if you can get people to notice your content, you can potentially gain some valuable fans, and perhaps even make a little money along the way.
So how do you go about marketing your news site online? There are numerous tactics you can use to attract potential readers, but you first need to establish what type of content you’ll be producing – is it long-form or short-form journalism? Feature or spot articles? Comprehensive or focused coverage? Cultural news or international affairs?
As you establish your site’s editorial policy, you can also decide how you’ll handle potentially divisive issues, such as politics and religion. Will you favor a progressive viewpoint or a conservative one? Will you take a pro-Israel or pro-Palestine stance? These decisions will have a profound impact on your site’s overall tone and tenor, and help you to establish the credibility of your brand right from the off.
Decide What You’ll Be Producing
Doing freelance work for news publications means you’re now responsible for coming up with content on a pretty much infinite number of topics. While it’s great to have the flexibility to write about what you want, you cannot choose your topics haphazardly; you need to put some thought into each article you’re going to produce, so it has the most effective and creative impact possible.
If you want to write about climate change, you need to research and establish the credentials of the experts in this field. Want to write about the latest iPhone or Samsung trends? You need to do some serious digging into the latest marketing strategies and consumer electronics sales numbers.
However, establishing a news site does not require you to limit yourself to writing about the latest happenings in your chosen industry. The world is a big place, and there are plenty of opportunities for journalists who want to do more than churn out traditional industry pieces. Want to write an in-depth investigative piece on a politician you fervently oppose, or an exposé on a dangerous animal that threatens the environment? You can certainly do that, as long as you have sufficient sources and support your story with facts. Traditional journalists may scoff at the notion of doing investigative reporting or exposing corruption, but with the rise of citizen journalists and social media, there is no longer a stigma attached to producing high-quality content on controversial topics. In fact, many news brands have flourishing business models centered around delivering quality content on niche topics that usually appeal to a highly engaged audience.
Establish Your Site’s Voice
Another important consideration is establishing your site’s voice. Simply put, this refers to the overall impression your content gives to your audience. Whether you achieve this by having an engaging writer or through a combination of in-house and freelance journalists, the voice of your news site will ultimately be determined by the content you produce.
To get a sense of what I mean, take a look at BuzzFeed, Reuters, the New York Times, or even The Guardian, which despite its reputation as a trustworthy source of news, actually publishes a pretty funny satire column under the guise of Serious Journalism. These publications have all established themselves as brand names in their chosen industries, and it’s all down to the content they produce.
The voice of your news site will be determined by the content you produce, and so it should be. You should put in the necessary time to come up with engaging content that will keep your audience interested and coming back for more. However, you should also bear in mind that your target audience will have very different expectations for what a modern news site should sound like. Your content may not appeal to everyone, but if you want to succeed you’ll need to find your audience and meet their needs.
Choose The Right Platforms For Your Content
This point is quite obvious, yet somehow still bears repeating: your content will exist somewhere, and you’ll need to find a way to get it in front of the right audience. While the internet makes much of our lives easier, it also makes it much more complicated when it comes to spreading our content.
You’ll want to have a look at the various platforms available to you, and establish which ones fit best with your content. This is especially important if you’re looking for funding or prizes – without an appropriate audience, neither of these will be very appealing options.
There are essentially three types of platforms you’ll need to consider:
- Static – these are platforms that simply host your content, and don’t offer any sort of engagement with your audience. While they’re useful for getting your content out there, they won’t necessarily translate to more engagement.
- Interactive – these platforms allow for some level of interaction between you and your audience. Whether it’s via a blog, an online forum, or a social media channel, you’ll be able to engage with your audience through this content.
- Emerging – platforms like TikTok, which was just recently discovered by Google, aspire to create a community around the content you share. Emerging platforms are all the rage right now, and with good reason – they give you the opportunity to connect with your audience and encourage them to come back for more content.
Content Is King (Or Queen)
Why is content so important? Well, as we’ve established, your content will determine the success of your site. Whether it’s a video of a cat playing the piano or a groundbreaking investigative piece, the content you produce will determine the overall impact of your news site. As such, you should put in the necessary time to come up with engaging content that will keep your audience interested and coming back for more.
Build An Online Community
Another crucial element of any successful news site is establishing, or re-establishing, an online community. This is especially important if you want to maintain a high degree of engagement with your audience.
To build an effective community, you’ll want to consider the following:
- Attracting and engaging with your audience through interesting articles and well-executed videos – both of which we’ve established as important components of a successful news site.
- Creating a space for people who share your interests – whether it’s a niche interest such as vegan cooking or fashion styling, or a more general interest such as science or technology. Interest groups on social media are a great example of how to establish meaningful connections with your audience.
- Providing useful information – whether it’s in the form of a how-to guide, curated list of products, or even a news digest that rounds up the biggest stories of the day – as long as you can demonstrate that you’re providing value to your audience, they’ll be more inclined to engage with you.
- Establishing credibility – again, this goes back to the issue of controversial or niche topics; by covering topics that are usually ignored by the mainstream, you can arguably create a greater impact and establish your authority more quickly.
- Encouraging interaction – whether it’s between you and your audience, or through third-party tools such as engaging videos or how-to guides – these are all fantastic ways to encourage your audience to come back for more.
- Measuring the success of your efforts – just like on social media, you’ll be able to see how many people are engaging with your content, in terms of likes, shares, and comments. This will give you the opportunity to evaluate the success of your efforts, and determine whether or not to continue with a particular strategy.
Building an audience through high-quality content is only the beginning; you’ll also want to consider the various other platforms and avenues available to you to further expand your audience, and retain them once you’ve attracted them. These tactics include:
Using Traditional And Social Media
There are plenty of opportunities for new journalists to get their foot in the door, with many large news brands now looking to hire freelancers specifically to work on marketing and community-building efforts. However, even for those looking to break into more established industries, these jobs can be quite attractive, since many large publications make a lot of money from their online platforms, and marketing and community-building can undoubtedly be considered a form of digital nomadship.