If you’re an entrepreneurial journalist, your success starts with your content plan.
Today’s class session in entrepreneurial journalism at Georgetown University will cover content, one of three key factors we are examining in the course (along with distribution and monetization) determining the success of an entrepreneurial journalism venture. (Those aren’t the only factors, of course. Each of those factors raises technology issues and you need to provide a successful user experience.)
A content plan should consider at least three aspects:
By way of background, we have previously discussed the importance of starting out with an audience in mind and identifying important jobs to be done for the audience. For instance, some jobs that we try to help TBD users with are “tell me quickly what’s happening in the Washington area,” “tell me what’s happening in my local community” and “help me plan my commute.” Once you identify the job to be done, you need to develop a content plan to meet that need.
You need to start with a type of content that does a job for your target audience. For instance, at TBD, our content is local news about the Washington metro area. Washington has many news organizations, each with a slightly different content focus. Many journalism operations define their content geographically. For instance, in the TBD Community Network, The Georgetown Dish, The McLean Ear, Rockville Central and Life in the Village are examples of dozens of blogs focused on particular geographic communities. Other operations define their content by an area of interest (sometimes an area of interest within a geographic community). For instance, in the TBD Community Network, Live In Red is about the Washington Capitals, Dance DC focuses on dance in the Washington area and Metro-Venture is about riding the Washington Metro system.
A journalist tends to think of content as stories, but content takes many forms:
Maps. Maps make great tools for informational content, such as TBD’s Metro problems map, Food Truck Fiesta’s Food Truck Tracker, the Forbes Map: Where Americans Are Moving and the New York Times Remade in America map.
Databases. I blogged yesterday about how journalists need to start thinking of news content as data.
Links. Headlines and links (with or without blurbs giving a little information about the link) can be valuable content. Though you send the user away, you can establish some value for your site as being a place where people find content of value. Remember, Google established the most successful business model of the Internet by providing external links of sufficient value that users kept coming back.
A journalism entrepreneur can acquire content through many sources:
Staff. Hired journalists can provide a steady stream of reliable quality content.
Freelance professionals. Freelance journalists can provide quality content at lower cost than staff.
Public records. Databases particularly draw frequently on public records. For instance, EveryBlock draws much of its content from databases of public records such as crime reports, liquor licenses and building permits.
Vendors. You can buy content from vendors. Your vendors can be traditional news sources such as wire services and syndicates or other entrepreneurs.
News releases. News organizations have long used news releases for some of their content, whether they publish them verbatim, rewrite them or use them as tips.
Community submissions. The interactive nature of the web presents lots of opportunities for news entrepreneurs to solicit and use community submissions.
Feeds. RSS feeds can provide a variety of content available from other sites, including headlines or full content or tweets.
Scraping. EveryBlock uses scripts to retrieve content from other sites and databases.
I’m sure I have left out some content formats and acquisition channels. I’ll add any that students come up with during class tonight. Please feel welcome to add more in the comments.
We’ll also discuss in class how these content elements play into other factors, such as staffing, technology, processes and standards. For instance, if you decide you need interactive graphics and databases, you are not likely to get those through community submissions, so you have to staff to develop that type of content. If you decide to make heavy use of community submissions, you need to choose submission tools and determine your process, standards and staffing for handling and posting the submissions.