Let me start off by saying that analytics are extremely convenient, yet super confusing and unreliable at times. That is definitely one aspect of online projects that I need to learn more about.
Therefore, we are going to discuss the news ecosystem and the ideas and elements that must go into startups in order for them to succeed, an important topic to any journalist entering this new digital age of news and media. With so much competition going on between different news outlets online, it’s hard to gain and keep a readership without understanding the qualities it must have in order to survive. Innovation is key to any news startup. What most outlets fail to do is incorporate all digital elements into their final product, as in they post the same news stories in the same format online as they do in print. What’s so exciting about that?
One unique aspect of the Internet is it’s ability to “interact” with its viewers. Rather than sitting a reading a newspaper at the breakfast table, the reader now has the power to choose what stories they want to read. They can comment and interact with other readers through online forums or comment boxes. They can “like” articles, share them with friends and family, link them to their personal blog or website. The list goes on…and on. Yet, most news startups fail within the first few months of production. As Mark Briggs points out in his book, Entrepreneurial Journalism, they fail to understand the importance of audience engagement, building trust and embracing the diversity of voice.
Again, I’ll point out the problems with the Demopolis Times, the news site of my hometown paper. Let’s just say, it’s struggling. The first thing one notices is the lack of organization. There’s an ad here, an ad there, an ad everywhere. Half of the news stories that are featured don’t even have a photo and half of the links don’t even work. Sidebars and Footers are cluttered. The only thing the site has going for it is that bright blue navigation bar. At least they figured that out, but, the pages it takes you to are even worse than the sites homepage. Then comes the BIG issue. The fact that they don’t produce any new information or attempt to work with other sites. The stories that are published online are the same stories they publish in the paper. Then comes the problem of audience engagement, as Briggs points out. Include links to “what others are reading” or encourage comments and feedback on posts. Ask the writers to start up blogs and include links to those blogs on the site. There are so many advantages (and disadvantages) to producing news online. All it takes is a little hard-work, a lot of time, a couple of trials, and a big ole dose of innovation!