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How to Start a News Website: 7 Easy Steps for Success

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Yuri Musienko
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Featured image for How to Start a News Website: 7 Easy Steps for Success

Today, launching a news site is easier than ever. To do this, you do not need programming skills, web design and the talent of a writer - only idea and desire to work hard a lot are enough. You can do without a lot of money if you try. How to do this is described in our article. The instruction consists of seven simple steps that everyone can follow.

Step 1: Niche and Target Audience

Oddly enough, but the most important and difficult thing in launching a news portal is the choice of what it will tell visitors about. Yes, you can simply create a website and write there about everything, copying the content of popular sites (BBC, Fox News or The New York Times), but do not expect success from such a project, since your content will not be unique (new), you will constantly fall behind in time and you will have a low ranking in search engines.

It is much more correct to choose a specific niche and concentrate on a separate target audience. For example, you can choose the niche “sports news” and the target audience “athletes”, “Europeans” or “American students”. For each such target audience you will require different content:

  1. Athletes need information about the main events, changes in the rules of selection for tournaments and doping laws, the search for new faces by advertisers and the like - that is important for the athletes themselves and their career.
  2. Europeans, as a separate target audience, need information about key sporting events, the outcome of games and tournaments, stories about athletes (moved to another club, got married, drunk driving) and other common things.
  3. American students will want to learn about the main events in the student sports leagues of the USA and Canada, get information about recruiting new players by major players, injuries to athletes, changes in the rules, etc.
And these are not the only target groups interested in sports. You can also look at the topic of sports through the prism of gambling, science and medicine, entertainment, show business (celebrity news), marketing, etc. And so with almost all the niches, be it the news of your city, science, business, politics, cinema or China.

analysis of search queries in Google Trends How to Start a News Website

An example of analysis of search queries in Google Trends on the topics of sports news, science and Springfield

When launching your news site, you must choose a niche and target audience with a minimum number of competitors and a sufficiently large audience. The size of the audience is important, as the site’s income will depend on it. For example, you can publish news about events in a small, unknown town. You will most likely not have competitors, as well as readers with advertisers.

The choice of niche and target audience should be done based on:

  1. Personal knowledge and preferences. It’s better to create content that you understand and that you won’t get tired of after a couple of months.
  2. Analysis of search queries. Can be tracked using Google Trends.
  3. Analysis of competitors. It is not necessary that they do not exist. It’s enough that you can create a website with a better design and content.
  4. The availability of news. Important for developing niches. For example, 20-30 years ago there was very little news about AI or big data, so there was no point in creating separate sites for these niches.

Step 2: Business Models of the News Platform

Regular sites. The work scheme of almost all news sites is quite simple: you or your employees are looking for news, rewrite them and publish on your site. The only difference between them is how they make money:
  1. Direct advertising from third-party brands and Google Ads is the most popular way to monetize your site. The difference between the two is that in the first case you control the appearance and content of the advertisement, and in the second you are responsible for the Google algorithms.
  2. Subscription and premium content. For visitors to gain access to the content, they must issue a monthly or annual subscription. Some sites divide the content into free (news) and paid (analytical materials, interviews, statistics, insider information, etc.).
  3. Selling individual articles. To read the article, you need to pay 1-50 dollars. Typically, such a model is used by specialized news portals that publish news with comments and analysis of specialists.
  4. No monetization. Many state, non-profit and scientific news portals do not make money on their visitors. They take money from the state budget, donations, from sponsors and investors.
Scientific News Sites. Separately, we should mention the business model of scientific journals with payment for publication. Such sites take from 10 to 2000 dollars from scientists for publishing their articles on the site. Texts are written by scientists. The money goes to pay for the services of reviewers (scientists checking the quality of research and their results), infrastructure and polygraphy (additional illustrations).

Access to content on such sites can be free or sold for a fee for each article (scientific research). For educational and scientific institutions, access is usually completely free.

Step 3: brand name and domain purchase

Name. Ideally, by the name of your portal, the user should immediately understand that this is a news site and what kind of news is there. At the same time, one must also take into account the specifics of the selected niche and target group. For example, in the USA there is the publication The Washington Post, so if you name yourself The Springfield Post, Americans will understand that this is Springfield news. In other countries, people might think this is a Springfield mail site.

Another example is the use of slang and specific terms. So, if you want to write news about technology and / or software, you can call the site Geek news, Geek word or Geek report. In other areas you can find similar specific words or phrases thanks to which you will find out what the site is about: iNews, MMOWorlds, EMc2 News, etc.

Domain. Another important factor when choosing a name is whether the right domain name (site name) is free. You can find out about this on Checkdomain, GoDaddy, or another similar site. The check needs to be done for the main zones (.com, .net and .org), regional (if the site is focused on a separate region) and two more: .info and .news. Of course, it’s better to buy a domain in the .news zone, since this will immediately indicate the specifics of the site and at the same time simplify your choice of name.

Checking Geek Domain How to Start a News Website

Checking Geek Domain Availability on Checkdomain

The most of interesting domain names are likely to be occupied, so immediately come up with 10 or more site names and check the availability of the selected domains. If everything is taken, use acronyms and abbreviations, just remember that they should also point to news and a niche.

Step 4: CMS platform and UX / UI design

CMS platforms How to Start a News Website

Statistics of the use of CMS platforms at the beginning of 2019

Choosing a CMS Platform. To create a news site, you will need to select software for organizing the process of joint creation, publication, editing and content management. Such software is called CMS (Content management system). The most popular CMS is WordPress. It is used by 30% of all websites, including Forbes, The New York Times, CNN, Wall Street Journal and National Geographic.

CMS WordPress is free, easy to learn and has the largest number of themes (templates) and plugins, and most web developers, editors, copywriters and designers are familiar with it, which simplifies the selection of staff. Plugins and themes can be either free or paid.

Website Design Choice. On the surface all news sites are very similar to each other: a news feed consisting of headlines and sidebars with links to relevant analytical texts and interviews, as well as a lot of advertising in the form of banners, pop-ups and videos. At the same time, sometimes there is a lot of advertising, which is the main problem of news portals.

Such design suits both website owners and users, provided that there is not too much advertising and it is non-intrusive. The following collage will tell about other problems of information sites the best way:

Common Issues How to Start a News Website

Common Issues in News and Information Websites (by Brad Kolbow)
If you decide to use WordPress CMS, rather than create it from scratch, then the ability to select and customize the design will depend on:
  1. If you use a predefined theme, such as NewsMag, NewsCard or SuperMag. In this case, the appearance settings will be very limited, as well as the ability to format text. Limitations can be extended through plugins, but there may be compatibility issues.
  2. If you use a blank theme, such as Astra or Oceanwp, in conjunction with the Elementor theme designers. In this case, you create a site from various modules (header, basement, columns, sidebars, etc.), choose a color scheme and get more options for formatting text. Workpiece themes and constructor are shareware.
  3. If you develop a WordPress theme from scratch. The best option if you need a unique design and / or functionality. But at the same time, this is the most expensive option - from 200 to several thousand dollars.
Ready-made themes can cost from $ 0 to $ 150, buying a workpiece theme and a designer - from $ 60 to $ 250 per topic and from $ 50 to $ 150 per month for access to the designer’s premium features. Developing a new WordPress theme costs between $ 100 and $ 20,000.

Step 5: Sources of Quality Content

News Aggregators. Websites that collect news headlines on a multitude of news portals and provide a link to go to full texts. They can be used to track current events and trends, but with caution, since such sites are not responsible for the accuracy, reliability or relevance of headings and publications.

The official websites of government services, companies, non-profit organizations and individuals. The best source, if you need to refer to the original, but you need to remember that the press services present information in a form that is advantageous to them and often miss things that are disadvantageous to them.

Other news sites. It's about news portals like The New York Times, The Washington Post, or Nature. On such sites it’s good to track analytics, interviews and insiders. You also need to track content on regional news sites, if you have chosen such a niche.

Social Media Pages and Blogs. The main source of content for news sites about celebrities, athletes, musicians or politicians. Usually it’s on their pages that people report something interesting or important. At the same time, you need to track the publications of not only media personalities, but also their relatives, friends, acquaintances, colleagues and neighbors. Often they (of their own free will or by chance) become sources of interesting content.

Step 6: Content Borrowing Rules

Jurisdiction. All countries have legislation governing copyrights to text, image and video. In some countries, there are also other restrictions related to the propaganda of terrorism, racism, religious intolerance and others. In other places, propaganda of homosexuality, a foreign religion and ideology is prohibited. Study them before launching your site to avoid litigation, which can lead not only to fines, but also to a prison term.

Search Engine Rules. Search engines like Google, with natural search results, give priority to unique content. Rules that determine the uniqueness of content are usually hidden. Internet users are given only general information, and not how the algorithms decide what is unique and what is not. However, this is enough to understand that a simple copy of the text will lead to a drop in the rating or blocking the site. To avoid this, we need copywriters who will rewrite the text of the news in their own words.

Content source. The rules for borrowing content from social networks, photo stocks or other news sites are usually subject to the laws of the country where the content source is registered, and the terms of the user agreement.

So, in most countries, you can use photos taken on news sites, if you specify the source. Whereas it is better not to use photos and videos from social networks without permission of the source or use an HTML link to content from Instagram, Twitter and YouTube, that is, use an iframe. Reposts are not considered as borrowing content.

Step 7: Marketing Strategy

Methods of promotion should focus on the selected and target audience. For example, millennials prefer to read the news on Facebook, while older people prefer one, sometimes two, publications that reflect their political and ethical preferences. Another example: women prefer Instagram, men prefer YouTube. And there are a lot of such nuances.

Here are some general guidelines for your main traffic sources:

  1. "Bookmark traffic." Visitors who bookmarked the site or downloaded the site’s application, as well as those who read the email newsletter. Usually these are people over 30 who are interested in their professional field or hobby. Young people tend to ignore it all.
  2. Users from aggregators. In most cases, these are your colleagues and various experts who track key events and trends in a country, an individual industry, or for an individual brand / person.
  3. Search results. Random visitors who became interested in some news and entered a corresponding query in a search engine. They usually use SEO to increase their numbers, but this is not suitable for news sites. Unless you can often use the word form “news + niche name”, for example, “news of technology”, “news of Paris” or “news + Trump”.
  4. Social networks. Ideally, to promote the site you need to create viral content: posts with many reposts. News sites do this with clickbait headers and images.
Another important rule: news like “Kim Kardashian starred in a new provocative swimsuit” will gain an order of magnitude more views than the news “Scientists have finally learned to treat sarcoma.” This is the nature of people, so if you really want to create a popular news site, do not rely only on “honesty, accuracy and impartiality”.

Use clickbait! Even Nature, the most scientific news site in the world, does it.

Merehead does professional development of how to start news website. If you have questions, contact us for a free consultation.

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