To thrive in online media, WyoFile must evolve
Guest column by Luis Gomez
— September 23, 2014
Journalism is a vital function of a healthy democracy, and with the advent of the internet there is an inherent pressure to get the craft right in order to stay relevant to an audience and ultimately thrive.
Those of us who practice journalism, especially on the web, have witnessed instances where online news organizations get it right and succeed, and when they get it wrong and fail. The recipe for success isn’t always obvious, and that’s because there are many variables that go into the success of a news organization on the web.
As business editor of the Investigative News Network, I pay close attention to the best practices in independent and nonprofit journalism. In that role, I observe those variables that often lead to success for online news publications: good editorial content, a smart outreach strategy, and an innovative business approach to revenue.
Good editorial content is subjective and, by no means, a silver bullet. But in looking at other news organizations that have benefited from quality journalism, there are a few key ways to getting it right. Here’s two ways:
Keep it relevant. With limited resources, WyoFile focuses on major policy issues that have significance in the lives of the people who live in Wyoming: health care, budget, natural resources, energy, education and social issues. By taking an in-depth and analytical approach, readers and policymakers alike are better informed and more engaged. No matter where readers and policymakers stand on a particular issue, they tend to regard WyoFile’s content as must-read information. Legislators are known to have shared WyoFile stories with their colleagues before convening to discuss and issue.
Make it useful. Mother Jones has claimed a great deal of success thanks, in part, to its explainer stories, it explained in this Nieman Lab post: It also allowed MoJo journos to “be responsive to people responding via social media with questions, with interests, with inquiries that they didn’t see answers to in other media outlets.” To these ends, WyoFile attempts to have a vigorous social media presence, and encourages thoughtful comments and reader submissions.
Employing a smart outreach strategy is also part of a success plan for any news organization, including WyoFile. Traffic to its website can spell either survival or demise. Executive director Lorena Garcia says the website already attracts readers from Twitter, Facebook, an RSS feed and even a newsletter.
“We can do more. But in order for us to do more, we have to present a welcoming storefront. With our new re-designed website that is easy to use, we will be able to employ an even more aggressive outreach strategy both for readers and supporters,” says Garcia. “Our readers have stepped up to the plate and continue to do so in funding our website redesign.”
See, having the means to distribute your content is one thing. Having a strategy using all those means is the underlying necessity. In 2010, MinnPost founder Joel Kramer explained that having a loyal audience was vital to its success and that meant embracing the web in more ways than just using it for storytelling.
Thanks to that strategy, the MinnPost found a way to rely less on foundations and more on individual donors, as explained in yearly reports detailing the growth of its reach.
Voice of San Diego did something similar in 2013 when it redesigned its website and its delivery strategy. VoSD CEO Scott Lewis listed six areas of redesign, including jumping on a new system to publish stories with more features for easy sharing and engagement.
Running a newsroom takes money. You have to pay for the bills, the staff’s salary, and other necessary spending to keep your operation running and keep doing the journalism that makes an impact in your community. That’s why WyoFile has made a call to action — for general support as well as its current Capital Campaign to help pay for a major website upgrade. It’s up to WyoFile to make its case, and up to readers who value its service to respond for the sake of their own interests to be better informed.
— Luis Gomez is business editor of the Investigative News Network — a nonprofit organization of online news organizations, of which WyoFile is a member.
— Columns are the signed perspective of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of WyoFile’s staff, board of directors or its supporters. WyoFile welcomes guest columns and op-ed pieces from all points of view. If you’d like to write a guest column for WyoFile, please contact WyoFile editor-in-chief Dustin Bleizeffer at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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