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.