Today we’ve received word that a number of Patch editors have been let go. This includes product folks, regional editors, and local editors. We feel for you, and we’re on your side.
We know many of the folks at Patch well. In fact, John Crepezzi, our CTO, was previously the lead engineer on the famed “Patch 1.0”.
If you have ever thought about going independent with your own news site, now may be the time.
We’ve put together a quick guide and resource list of what you’ll need to do to get up and running.
Launching a news site is easier than it sounds. The number of free tools, resources, and publishers who have “been there, done that” has been growing for years. Take a look over the basics below, and reach out to us if you have any questions, or need help.
On a high level, these are the steps you would need to follow to get up and running.
- Get an account with a hosting company, like WPEngine.
- Select a WordPress theme to use, like Blargo
- Plan out where ads might appear in your new theme. If you choose Blargo (above), this is already done for you.
- Reach out to the business owners and community members that you once served, and tell them about your new status
- Build a mailing list of those members with plain email or a newsletter service like MailChimp
- Explore the extremely valuable resources other publishers have made available
Now, to elaborate on those points:
Get an Account with a Hosting Company
WordPress is the platform you’ll want to use. It’s a content management system. It’s not the same one that you used at Patch, obviously, but it’s extremely popular, highly extensible, and easy to set up.
Our favorite WordPress host is WPEngine. They offer many services that you won’t care about now, but will in the future (like automated backups, hack protection, site speed optimization, and more). That’s $29/month.
Select a WordPress Theme
This is your chance to create a site with your own look and feel. You can build your own brand with a site and content that reflects a new personality.
You can fast-track the setup process by using Blargo, a theme that comes with pre-planned ad slots and a number of other important features. Blargo’s creation was funded by the New Jersey News Commons.
If you don’t choose Blargo, you’ll likely want a theme that has a “magazine” layout, like many of the free themes you can get here.
Plan Out Ad Slots
Remember, the Blargo theme above does the dirty work for you. But here’s a guide in case you would like to do it yourself. Remember to think about revenue. You’ll want to plan and price your ad slots in a way that will allow you to grow in the future, and also hit a level of income that will keep you, and maybe even a small staff, sustained.
Here’s a guide:
Reach Out to Previous Contacts
One of your most powerful advantages is the rolodex of contacts you have built up while working at Patch. Reach out to those contacts, and tell them about your plans to go solo. Small business help small businesses, and you are now a small business. These folks will become your initial readers and advertisers.
Build a Mailing List
When you launch your new site, the last thing you want is little or no readership. Community news is a powerful thing that attracts high levels of loyalty. You want to collect the email addresses of the contacts you have above and add them to a mailing list.
This could be something simple, like a list of emails that you BCC, and notify of your launch and new posts on the site.
You could also use something more robust like MailChimp to build a professional-looking newsletter, which will also help you track statistics on open rates, clicks, and other important metrics.
Be sure to put the sign-up form for your mailing list on the new website.
Explore These Resources
There is a community of independent news publishers that have grown and sustained themselves. They’ve been down the well-beaten path that you are about to travel, and have written many guides along the way.
A Presentation Debbie Galant (the unofficial “Queen of Hyperlocal” and founder of Baristanet) and Kenny Katzgrau (co-founder of Broadstreet) did on building a news website.
- A guide that Howard Owens, the industry veteran, and publisher of the prominent The Batavian wrote.
- The LION Publishers group, a guild of local news publisher who have been down this road.
- BeALocalPublisher.com: Another detailed guide to getting set up with a news site from scratch.
- The Broadstreet Community Group, the community for our customers who use Broadstreet for ad management.
- MichelesList.org: A catalogue of independent news sites with detailed information on revenue and strategy.
If you are a veteran indie publisher, and you’d like to add your own tips, please comment below.