Since leaving my news post at WCCO-TV more than 6 years ago, I’ve had countless formal and informal meetings with reporters wondering what’s “on the other side” of the news business. What could they do? What should they do – leave or stay? In virtually each case, the person with whom I met would like to stay in the business, but can no longer make it work, financially. And just as it is difficult for the individual, it’s also challenging for media outlets.
Keeping in mind, the purpose of running a business is to make money, media outlets are trying to figure out new ways to do just that. At the same time, journalists are trying to sustain their careers whether in or out of news. Neither party has the answer, both are concerned about the future and also realize that while journalism will endure, it will no doubt look different in the future.
So, here’s my “what if:” What if journalists began to maintain their own personal news blogs? They could brand them in a manner that is unique to themselves and create the content they believe is valuable to their audience. They could become “iReporters!” As reporters, we’ve all sat in editorial meetings pitching a great story, only to see it get shot down. We’ve seen garbage news get covered while, what we deem to be, insightful, powerful stories get shelved. What if reporters could create content that could appeal to thousands of readers or viewers? Could they then find their own advertisers? Could they not market their blog to businesses that covet parallel demographics?
“How do I do that,” you ask? Figure out your “beat,” what news do you think your market is hungry for and start covering it like you would if you were working for a media outlet. You have standards, you have skills and you have contacts. Continue to work in your craft and then begin to develop your audience. Post your blogs and you’ll see what gets read and what doesn’t – your audience will tell you what they like. You can distribute through social tools like Stumbleupon, Twitter and a Facebook page. If you’re a media person, chances are you already have a Twitter and Facebook following! Guess what? They’re following you because they like you, not because they like your media outlet!
Once you develop your audience, track your views – go into the blogs analytics and figure out where your readers are coming from and go find more. Then, the tricky part, go sell it. Find advertisers who want to sell to your audience. What’s that? You think that’s to “salesy.” Guess what? That’s exactly what the salespeople in your building are doing. You are the product and the company is selling your work to generate revenue and who can sell your work better than you?
Okay, so this notion of the “iReporter” is probably “out there” for most of you, but think of this: your boss is asking you to tweet and create Facebook followers in an effort to get noticed and build an audience, right? And you’re doing it. Many of you have thousands of “friends and followers” that can be tapped as a base. You have the sources and stories ready to go, you just need businesses to buy it. There are community papers, online papers like Minnpost.com, aggregators like Bring Me the News, but nothing like this. Truly, we’re not there yet, but the media is changing and the way people get information has changed. It’s just that no one has figured out how best to continue to do what they love doing for years to come – for stakeholders of media outlets it’s making money and for journalists it’s doing great work and getting paid for it.
Ed Heil is the owner and president of StoryTeller Media & Communications an inbound marketing and public relations agency and video production company based in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul. Ed blogs on topics related to inbound marketing, social media, media relations, news media, video production and crisis communications.
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