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How to be more than a content site

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From niche content sites to online news portals, a slew of startups are springing up in the world of new media. Here are ten things that these startups need to keep in mind as they try to grab the headlines:

  1. Consumer Motivation > Product/Tech: Just because you build, it does not mean they will come. Know why they will come before focusing on what you will build.
  2. Adapt message to medium: Don’t just export print or TV content to digital media. That does not play to digital’s strength. Instead adapt, abbreviate, create interactivity, boost narrative resilience.
  3. Think beyond the written word to multimedia content: Consumers today are exposed to sensorial richness in the messaging they receive and that which they create. Up your content game to add multi-textural depth.
  4. Quality trumps quantity: We live in a world overcrowded with content. Less can be more. Don’t drown users in a barrage of content. Curate intelligently.
  5. Source ethically: Be a partner not a plagiarist. Content creators should be credited for their content. And be paid for it. Don’t simply lift their work, pass it off as your own and monetise selfishly. That does not bode well for the health of the content ecosystem. Share both limelight and revenue.
  6. Focus on audience retention as much as audience acquisition: Focus not on eyeballs but on building and deepening engagement. Buying an audience is tempting, but it is an expensive and non-sustainable path to growth. Know your customer lifetime value and build your business with that in mind. Maximise your customer lifetime value by focusing as much on loyalty as on trial. Habits last. Flirtations, especially incentivised ones, don’t.
  7. Broaden perspective: Source a rich diversity of content to ensure your readers are getting the whole story. This builds objectivity, credibility and empathy. If you are running a story on the budget or a sports team, for instance, try to share content from both supporters and detractors. The truth usually lies somewhere in between and the differences in (responsible) perspectives can spark conversations about issues that matter. Go for conversations that can smash the echo chambers of self-validating editorial bias.
  8. Don’t blur the line between content and branded content: This is a slippery slope. In order to maintain the credibility of your content, your reputation and your service to your readers, it is critical to fiercely maintain the boundary between journalism and advertorials.
  9. Make a clear choice about what you want to build your competitive advantage around: Speed (CNN), Depth (The Economist), relevance (News Republic), brevity (News in Shorts), community (Facebook) or another aspect that plays to your strength and passion. It is impossible to do everything equally well. Hone your strength to sharpen your edge in the market place.
  10. Don’t forget to listen: It is foolhardy to be a one-way broadcaster. Invite your audience into the story – let them feel like participants rather than mere spectators. Invite comments, reactions and respond to audience feedback. Let your audience get to know your content creators. Build bonds beyond the masthead.

The author is chief brand and communications officer, News Republic, a news syndication app from US-based Mobiles Republic.

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