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How to Start a News Website: The Beginner’s Guide

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Published by Abhishek Raj

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Today, in an era of fake news and media distrust, there has never been a better time to launch your own news website. There are also probably no more challenging times to do so. News is a notoriously difficult industry to break into as a new entrant — and that’s because it’s incredibly competitive. What with legacy media like newspapers struggling and digital upstarts like BuzzFeed continuing to thrive, the market is fragmented in the best and worst of ways. Intrigued? You should be! Even in such a crowded field, there has never been a better time to launch your own news site. In this blog post, I will walk you through all the things you need to know on how to start a news website of your own.

Why should you start your own news website?

There are several advantages of starting your own online news portal. The key benefits are:

  • Returning traffic – When people like a news website, they keep coming back to discover what’s new and trending. Returning visitors are usually your ardent fans and followers, and they do play a very important role in making your news website popular.
  • Opportunity to make money – As an editor of online news website, you have a plethora of opportunities to make money from your site. Ads and sponsored news/reviews are the two most popular ways to make money on your news website.
  • Preference in Google search results – When you publish fresh news articles consistently, you are more likely to be given preference over regular search results on Google. This ultimately means more visitors to your news site.
  • Opportunity to become an influencer – If your news website turns out to be highly popular, you eventually become an influencer; and this unlocks the opportunity to make high-profile contacts, and influential business relationships in your niche.

5 tips to help you start your online news website

Here are the top five tips to help you successfully launch your own news website…

1.) Know the Audience You’re Serving

The first and the most important tip before you start your own news website is to define who your target audience is. This will help you identify the type of topics to cover on your news website.

target audience

Once you have decided your niche, ask these questions to yourself:

  1. Who are my readers? Who is interested in reading my news content?
  2. Where do my readers live? (Define geographically)
  3. Why will someone read my news content? What information gaps does my news website fill?
  4. What is the lifestyle of my target readers? What are their key interest areas? How is their overall personality?

The University of Minnesota on its website has also very clearly explained how to understand the target audience for a news publication.

For example, if you’re starting a hyperlocal news website — that is, a news website serving your immediate community — you’ll want to find out what people want to know about their neighborhood. What are the biggest challenges they’re dealing with right now? What specific, localized stories would they like to read about?

Similarly, a celebrity news website will cater to an entirely different set of audience — i.e., an audience broadly consisting of young people, interested in consuming fashion, entertainment, and gossip-based content. The target readers of a celebrity news website also prefer to consume video / photo-based content more than plain text-based content.

So, it is clear that knowing your target audience before the launch of your news website will be of immense help in shaping your overall content and marketing strategy.

2.) Decide on a Format

The next most important thing is to determine what news format would best serve your target audience.

popular online news formats

Here are the five interesting news formats to consider:

A) Traditional articles

Bold headlines, followed by news text is still one of the most popular formats for online news websites. Adding relevant file photos in between paragraphs further improves the readability and engages your readers. This news format serves well across all the niche.

B) Video clips

For entertainment or celebrity news websites, video clips usually serve better than any kind of format. To ensure that your readers stick to the website longer, make sure the videos are hosted on your own website. Scaling down videos and using a CDN will further improve the user-experience on your website.

C) Live video streaming

If you are planning to cover a lot of breaking news on your website, then live video streaming format will outperform other news formats. When it comes to live news, people generally love to see live video streaming of the events rather than a plain textual reporting of the facts.

D) Podcast

Podcasts are getting incredibly popular these days. They capture a class of listeners who love consuming news by listening rather than reading or watching. Unlike written news or live videos, news in podcast format can be consumed just around anytime, for example while driving, cooking, or even at the gym.

E) Digital Magazine

Start a digital magazine. Many people are used to consuming magazines digitally, and you could start a news site that offers a digital-first take on the news.

3.) Choose Your Platform

choosing a platform for news website

You can build your site on almost any platform you like these days — WordPress is a good option for many people, as are Squarespace and Wix. But you’ll want to choose carefully, because the platform you use will have an enormous impact on your ability to grow and sustain your news website over time.

If you’re trying to build a lasting news brand, you’ll probably want to avoid the free platforms that many new journalists use. Because those platforms often depend on online ads for revenue, there are concerns that they could eventually sell your data to advertisers or otherwise compromise your integrity as a news source.

4.) Build a Team

If you’re a one-person newsroom, you’re going to have a hard time growing your site. Part of that is the nature of the news business — you’ll often have to jump on a story as soon as you hear about it, which means you probably won’t have sufficient time to start your own reporting process on your news website.

Building a team for your news website

Goes without saying, you’ll need help from other people: Maybe you’ll want to team up with other local news organizations, or maybe you’ll want to take advantage of freelancers. But you’re going to need some way of getting more people involved in your site — and you’ll also want to think about how to structure those relationships as you build your team.

5.) Plan Your Content Calendar

Content calendar for your news website

One of the most important things you can do when you’re first launching your news site is to establish a consistent publishing calendar. You want to make sure people know when to expect new content from you. You also want to give yourself enough time to actually produce that content.

A good general rule of thumb is that one month of publishing is worth about one week of prep work. Planning out your schedule can help you make sure you don’t fall behind.

Summing it up

If you are planning to start a news website, there has never been a better time. The market is fragmented enough that there are plenty of opportunities for new entrants, and journalism is experiencing enough distrust that there are plenty of opportunities to prove your value. However, it’s going to be challenging. But if you follow these tips very carefully, I am sure that you will end up launching a massively successful news website.

Picture credits:

Photo by Melanie Deziel on Unsplash

Photo by Windows on Unsplash

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About the author
Abhishek Raj is the founder of Budding Geek. He is an inveterate blogger with a decade of experience in the internet technology & online marketing industry. Abhishek takes pride on being featured in some of the top industry websites like Marketing Land, Social Media Today, LifeHacker & ProBlogger. Learn more about Abhishek

1 thought on “How to Start a News Website: The Beginner’s Guide”

  1. Hi Abhishek. Interesting and informative article. I have one question though – Can I use free images sourced from the internet on my news website?

    Reply

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