The time is right to get my hyperlocal wheels in motion, to stop talking the talk and start walking the walk. My hyperlocal news website will take shape over the next few months, with an editorial focus on politics and policy in my neighborhood. I like politics. I eat it for breakfast. So why not.
But I keep in mind that this endeavor is ultimately a business, with an objective to break even in the first year and to attain profitability within the first three. I can live with that.
The first order of business is to deliver a product, and by that, I don’t necessarily mean editorial content. The product is people: readers who are engaged in our community, both off-line and online. Such an audience invests time, energy and money into the neighborhood, a quality that local sponsors and advertisers might find attractive. Those same readers are also potential subscribers, though I won’t cross that bridge on my business plan for at least one more year.
The least expensive and perhaps most effective way of building this online audience is through social media, namely Twitter. I can’t beat the ostensibly free platform, and even though many more people use Facebook, I’ve had better reader engagement via Twitter.
Twitter’s retweet function also allows me to serve as a portal of hyperlocal information without shifting my editorial focus away from its core. If another source wants to report on crime or restaurant openings in my hood, then I’m more than glad to rebroadcast that to my followers. Hitting the retweet button doesn’t take me away from tailing a city council member, yet the retweeted information keeps my publication (or its Twitter account) relevant.
Of course, Twitter isn’t my only game. There will be original content on my hyperlocal website soon enough, as well as face time in the community. Hopefully by this summer, my site will have enough of an audience for me to take the business into its next phase: revenue generation. I have a game plan for that, too.