More than eight-in-ten adults now access news on mobile devices, making 2018 a great time to launch a digital-first publication. But drawing eyes away from legacy outlets, and finding ways to attract readers to a publication that exists solely on the Internet, requires a strategy that goes beyond just pumping out great content each day.
At Web Publisher PRO, we work with publishing startups to help turn lofty dreams into thriving businesses. These publishers benefit from our intimate knowledge of user experience optimization and how to foster loyal readerships. The strategies required to launch a successful hyperlocal website aren’t that different from launching any other type of digital business — attracting the right clients or readers is necessary for success in every case.
The majority of digital news outlets launching today are considered niche publications. That is, they’re focused on covering the ins and outs of a specific topic, like a city, a neighborhood, or an industry. Publishers launching these types of outlets aren’t just interested in attracting generic readers, they’re interesting in attracting the right readers—readers who are passionate about the topics being covered in these new publications.
Surveys show that niche publications have an easier time gaining traction and trust from readers because their reporters are viewed as having more intimate knowledge of the particular industry or topic. Take science news, for example. According to Pew Research, Americans are more likely to say that niche science sources, like science magazines, are accurate in their reporting compared to legacy publishers, like the Wall Street Journal or the New York Times.
But how should up-and-coming publishers connect with the people who might be interested in the topics they cover, and how can they actually draw those people in and help them become avid readers of their sites? We believe that the following strategies can help answer those questions.
How to get people reading your publication in five steps.
Step 1: Create content that people want to read.
Be better than anyone else at reporting on whichever topics you plan to cover. Whether you’re launching a hyperlocal publication focused on a specific town or neighborhood, or a niche site that covers an industry or topic, find a way to make your content better than anyone else’s. Talk to subject matter experts, interview real people in the town you’re covering, or dig deeper into public records to uncover truths that nobody else has found. When you produce top-quality content, readers who are interested in that topic have no choice but to click onto your site.
Step 2: Build a community.
Join Facebook groups and start following Twitter and Instagram hashtags focused on the topics you plan to cover. Once you’ve gotten to know the people in these communities, let them know about the publication you’re launching. In addition to becoming yet another way to attract readers to your website, social media communities can become a valuable source for story ideas and expert interview resources.
Step 3: Form industry partnerships.
Take a look at the topics you cover and who the major players are in that space. Personal connections with individuals, brands, and other media companies can help grow your readership in a number of different ways. For example, an influential person might start tweeting links to your articles, a brand could funnel traffic your way through a series of sponsored posts, or another media company might be interested in collaborating on a time-intensive project or guest posting on your website.
Step 4: Take advantage of organic search.
Organic search can be a valuable way to attract readers, so it’s important to optimize content for search engines. Publishers with WordPress websites should consider using a plugin like Yoast, which handles the technical aspects of search engine optimization and improves the chances of articles ranking highly on Google and Bing.
Step 5: Use paid ads to attract readers.
Describe your target reader, then use Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram to target users who fit that description. You might be interested in reaching people in a certain city or people who are interested in certain topics. With paid Facebook ads, you can target the type of person you want to reach and offer something enticing to get them to click over to your website. Encourage new readers to share their email address or connect on social media for access to exclusive content, and you’ve got another channel for marketing in the future.