The Top 10 Key Lessons For Hyperlocal Journalism Startups From ONA10

By: E&P Staff

Pekka Pekkala | The Online Journalism Review

If you are dreaming about your own news site, you are not alone: hyperlocal sites are popping up everywhere. At ONA10 last week in Washington, D.C., veterans of the hyperlocal scene shared their experiences, both successes and failures. Here’s the top 10 of the recurring topics during the three-day conference.

1. Successful doesn’t mean beautiful

Take a look at the award-winning WestSeattleBlog.com. The design is pretty much out-of-the-box WordPress. Instead of fancy graphics, WSB has concentrated on more important things: great content and selling ads. As a result, the site is has provided income for Tracy Record and her husband for two years. Sometimes you don’t even need a site: DavidsonNews.net, a news site that claims it’s close to $100,000 revenue per year, started as an email newsletter.

2. Legal stuff isn’t rocket science

If you plan to do proper journalism on your news blog, you probably will piss someone off. Or somebody in your very informal blog network will, and you all get sued. Citizen Media Law Project offers advice how to protect yourself and what to do with nasty comments or copyright infringements, how to create a “Terms and Conditions” policy, and what to do with DMCA (for those not into the jargon yet, that’s the Digital Millennium Copyright Act) takedown notices.

3. There is no such thing as free content

Running a neighborhood website where ordinary citizens produce content sounds tempting, right? You just gently advise the amateurs and wait for the stories to come in. Wrong. Read J-Lab report New Voices: What Works and learn how much work it requires to keep the contributors active. Less than 1 in 10 of those you train will stick around to be regular contributors.

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