The funnel, saying no and other things we tried to figure out in 2018

December 19, 2018

This piece originally appeared in Local Edition, our newsletter following the digital transformation of local news. Want to be part of the conversation? You can sign up here.

Hi and welcome to the final Local Edition of 2018. Let’s look back at the past year. Just kidding  — no one has time for that. Instead, here are tips from five of the topics we covered this year.

How small newsrooms can do big projects

– Find something that inspires you. Figure out how it was made. Try it. Get better at it. Make the case to your newsroom for resources that will help you build on what you’ve started.

– Don’t wait for people with the right skills and know-how; get people with adjacent skills and know-how. Figure out the stories only your newsroom can tell. Find partners. Keep your stories boiling on the back burner.

– Need inspiration? Here you go.

Is your newsroom ready to hold events?

– Are you sure? You have to start with an actual strategy. “You need to figure out the why and the what, and then you figure out the how,” said Jon Cohn, managing producer for forum programs and live events at Southern California’s KPCC back in February. “What’s your audience-facing announcement? What is the definition of the project? What’s the vision? What’s the audience? What’s the service? What’s the strategy? And ultimately, what’s the goal? And then the where and the when and how, they all come in. Really, it’s like, for whom are we doing this? What service does this provide? And how will we know if it’s successful?”

– Start where you are. “I wish I would have known how better to build this within the confines of what we do on a day-to-day basis,” said WDET’s Courtney Hurtt back in February. “Start from there, versus taking these ideas that are on the periphery and trying to force them in.”

You can’t do more with less. Here’s how to say no:

– You need clear direction from your boss, a clear mission and an idea of alternatives to saying no.

– Realize it’s not possible anymore to try to be everything to everyone. Then, prioritize.

Newsrooms are finding ways to bring in alternate funding. Here’s how.

– Community funding.

– Partnerships.

– Foundations.

– And here’s a quick guide for finding funding.

What’s the funnel and why should I care?

– It is, to recycle this newsletter from May, the “concept of turning casual audiences into loyal ones (aka members or subscribers, who support the survival of the journalism.)”

– Here are the stages: 

  • Awareness, where people are first seeing your work.
  • Engagement, where people like what they see and come back.
  • Conversion, where people subscribe, sign-up etc.
  • Retention, where they remain loyal and the journalism they originally signed up for is the reason.

The first year of this newsletter was a lot of temperature taking. This second year has been a lot more about strategy. If you’re inspired to send ideas on direction or what you’d like to see more or less of for 2019, please let me know at khare@poynter.org.

And in case you need some holiday reading/ideas:

– Start an ONA Local group.

– Apply for funding to help your newsroom work with API’s Metrics for News.

– Better News covered how the Myrtle Beach Sun News uses Facebook to introduce itself to new audiences. 

– And here’s a Nieman Lab year-end prediction about local news.

Thank you for reading, for writing and for the work you do. Local Edition will be back in 2019. Until then, I hope your holidays are peaceful, your deadlines few and your new year a promising one.