The web is now an integral part of every publication. Many have heard the message over and over that print media is in danger. While this may be partially true, it is for certain that all print media is evolving and scholastic journalism groups should be implementing some type of online presence.
Social media, blogging sites, and smartphones present a wonderful new opportunity to engage readers. However, simply having content available on the web is not enough. Staffs must market their sites and social media presence in order to build traffic.
If you are interested in developing a marketing scheme for your website, consider these ideas: 1. Access readers where they naturally go 2. Study your readers’ tendencies 3. Give them the content they need 4. Make your name simple, present, and brand it 5.Make connections at every opportunity.
1. Access Readers Where They Naturally Go
The first place students should begin is by thinking about those sites that they go to when they first get out of bed in the morning. Thinking about your own natural web behavior is key. The places that you visit are likely the same that your audience will visit.
For many individuals the first sites that appear on their smartphones, or computer screens, are Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc. Rarely do we anticipate our student body clicking on ournewspapername.com the moment they get up. So the idea here isn’t getting the “first click” of your audience, but rather how do I acquire the “second click” in the morning, and how do I get them to stay on our site?
I usually admit that my “second click” of the morning is on ESPN.go.com. The explanation for me is that I am a sports junkie, and the best place to get the content I want is there. It is reliable, timely, and usually packed with visually interesting posts (videos of highlights in their slider). So our staff takes this into consideration.
In sports coverage, use the same approach. Consistency should be stressed on your staff. Post on Twitter and Facebook nightly. These posts should contain an image if possible, scores, and links to your webpage for more content (photo galleries, video, etc.). Keep in mind that sports junkies, who follow high school sports, usually rely on local papers, but local papers rarely have the resources to cover every school. Your audience will begin to realize that the best place to go to get the most timely and accurate reporting is on your site. Once you develop your following on Facebook and Twitter, you will quickly understand how one retweet could be the most effective marketing strategy available.
2. Study Your Readers’ Tendencies
Once you have developed a site and are posting stories, you may wonder who is looking at your page? You need to find a way to analyze traffic. The most effective tool that many people use for WordPress sites is Google Analytics. With a simple plugin and a few id numbers, you can access your traffic information in a variety of ways.
If readers are visiting your photo galleries most often, then it would be wise to post a photo gallery quite regularly. If more people are visiting your sports stories than your news stories, then you might want to consider giving more attention to sports at your school. Google Analytics will tell you many details about your audience: demographics, behavior, technology being used, mobile or computer, number of visits using a search engine vs. direct traffic, duration of visits, along with many other elements.
The information from Google Analytics last year helped direct our coverage to more live events. The implementation of live video and live feeds through Ustream and Coveritlive were a direct response to the numbers from the graduation coverage our staff did. Without the information from Google Analytics, the staff would have never discovered that over 2,000 viewers accessed our site for graduation over the period of two weeks.
3. Give Them The Content They Need
Of course students want to see stories and more importantly photos of themselves. With this in mind, the more students you can cover, the more sharing will take place. Each year the staff gears up for a few events that involve the entire school. Events like graduation, prom, pep rallies, and homecoming are attended by a majority of the student body. By covering these events and promoting your coverage on social media, you are in addition marketing your website.
Share a few photos or a small clip of video on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, and be sure to tag people who have friends on these sites. In addition, include your link and tell them that they can access more on your site. The teasers generally work well and before you realize it, not only are you drawing more traffic to your site, but you will also see your social media followers increase.
4. Make Your Name Simple, Present, And Brand It
Although most website URLs are already named before thinking about marketing, it is helpful to make the name part of the marketing scheme. The URL should be something that is easy to remember and can be designed well also. Just imagine if fans of ESPN had to type in “Entertainment and Sports Programming Network” to get to their website every time. Consider using the URL as a chance to market the site.
Once the name is established, make the most of every opportunity to showcase it. Here are just a few places the website URL can appear: staff t-shirts, bulletin boards, letterhead, pencils, business cards, newspaper display racks, signs inside the schools, signs at the local coffee shop, and the list goes on and on.
Smartphone apps can also help with the process of linking a publication to the web. Many staffs have been using QR codes (form of bar codes) in their print materials. So in the case of a print article, a QR code will be placed at the bottom of the page. The code will inform the reader that if they scan the code their phone will take them to more digital content. This is a great tool for print articles on the marching band or theatre group, where sound and video can be an essential part of telling the story.
Hopefully over time, the student body and community will refer to your brand as the source for all news important to them.
5. Make Connections At Every Opportunity
Finally, the ease of reporting online has also developed the demand for never taking a break. In the old system of writing for a weekly, bi-weekly or monthly newspaper, which most student publications fall under, there were times when a staff may take a moment to breathe. Unfortunately now there is access to report the news 24 hours a day.
Marketing a site depends greatly on taking advantage of every opportunity available. At the beginning of the school year, throughout the year, and even over the summer, a staff must be ready to cover the news. If the presence begins to disappear online, the audience that depended on that news source will disappear also.
A staff should be vigilant at school events, school board meetings, community events, and even at conferences. Make connections with fellow community members and people outside of the community. Always bring business cards to events. When parents and audience members see a photographer at an event, they often are interested in finding out where they can go to get the pictures. Don’t miss an opportunity like this to gain another viewer.
In the end, marketing a website is much like selling anything else. The key is to know your audience and give them something no one else can. The product (stories and photos of your school) is already in high demand for your community. Now all you have to do is let them know where they can find it.