Be inspired in digital media by those who only exist in digital

By Paula Wethington

I’ve been in the journalism business long enough to remember when people would complain about the lack of a news media outlet covering their community, or wish that they could cover it in a way that the established media had overlooked.

In response, an alternative weekly newspaper might pop up. In another era, someone might apply for a low power / non-profit radio or television frequency. In the mid-2000s, blogging was the genre that independent voices flocked to. On an off and on basis, another format has been podcasting.

If you work in mainstream media, you would be smart to pay attention to what those startup organizations can and will do. We are long past seeing ordinary people starting a site as a hobby and then trying to make money off the web ads. Instead, some of the sites today are run by experienced journalists and broadcasters who know how to find quality content, how to present their work and understand their audience, … and are simply using today’s digital tools and social media to do just that.

Since there are so many design tools available for free or low cost, including flexible WordPress templates, today’s independent news and media sites can have flexibility, design and flourish that is way beyond what was possible 10 years ago.

You can debate the business finances all you want, but I’ll tell you this:

I started paying close attention when I realized at one point that a friend of mine who hosted an independent local news site had Facebook fan count that beat the COMBINED Facebook fans of the newspaper and radio station in his town.

In other words, these media startups could easily eat your lunch if you work in mainstream media and do not take their resourcefulness and focus seriously.

Ponder that thought, and then figure out how you will compete against that.

(Updated Feb. 15, 2016)


Author: Paula Wethington

Paula Wethington works on the digital side of journalism for The Monroe News in Monroe, Michigan.

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