Nine things to know before publishing an online news website

As a provider of online newspaper and magazine website solutions, we often encounter people new to online publishing with notions which are not quite correct or which need updating. Some of these are assumptions from the world of print media which don't really apply online. Some others are just things which merely need pointing out. In the interests of anyone else who may be considering publishing their own news or magazine website, we've collected a list of them here.

Use a content management system (cms)

Any sort of online publishing nowadays should use a content management system (cms), not least newspapers or magazines. A cms allows you and your staff to post your stories and make changes without having to rely on a third party. On the Internet, time is measured in minutes and hours, not in days.

A content management system also makes it possible and feasible to organise the thousands of news stories that you will have.

Editions is an outdated concept

The idea of editions is an outdated and inefficient remnant of print media. News online is about being constantly up to date. There is no need, nor reason, to organise stories into periodical editions online. There is no advantage to withholding stories so they can be published together. In fact, trying to organise your stories into editions can be a very real disadvantage since it requires more administrative work — for no benefit.

If something is worth publishing, it is worth publishing now.

Publish anytime

A corollary is that you can, and should, publish news stories online at anytime. This is both good and bad. Good in that you can publish at your own pace and schedule. Bad in that you always need to keep up to date. This is a balance that needs to be found.

There is no need to archive stories

Once you publish a news story, you should leave it online. Forever. It will continue to have readers days or weeks after publication. Over the long term, it will also appear in search results as well. These are benefits of leaving a story online. Since the cost of having another web page is essentially zero, why would you 'archive' it?

Whilst this may seem obvious in hindsight, we have had users asking about archives. Each time, we gently convince them there is no need for such a thing.

A very small minority of users think that 'archives' will allow visitors to find old stories. Unfortunately, that's a bit of a fallacy. Having a good search ability on the website is a much better way for visitors to find old stories. It will be more efficient and effective too.

Content should be open

The web is built on openness and linking, and your news stories should be open and accessible to anyone. This is how you build a trusted brand and acquire readers. The worse thing you can do in the early days is cut off access in an attempt to acquire paid subscribers. Don't. Until you have a known and trusted brand (and maybe not even then), prospective readers won't even know of you, much less care.

Concentrate on readership

In the early days of publishing your brand new online newspaper of magazine, you should concentrate on growing readership. Don't get distracted by ways to monetise your website.

Create something of value to your readers first. If you don't have this, nothing else will work.

There are a limited number of usable fonts online

For historical and technical reasons, there are a limited number of fonts which can be safely used online. Just because you like a font that exists on your computer, doesn't mean that everyone will also have that font installed. You should only use a font which is likely to be available to the vast majority of visitors.

The actual list varies depending on who you ask, and what they consider to be 'safe' to use. You can search the Internet for web safe fonts to find out more, or just stay with the font that came with your newspaper theme.

Pick your image proportions and be consistent

The images that you upload to your newspaper or magazine website should all use the same proportions. This results in a cleaner and more consistent appearance. For example, you could decide that all images should be in 3x2 proportion ie. the width should be 1.5 times more than the height. Or you could pick 4x3 which is another common format (due to its prevalence in digital cameras).

Then, be consistent.

If need be, crop your images to conform to the proportions before uploading them.

Otherwise, if you have images with all sorts of width to height proportions, then they won't line up nicely when resized and laid together.

We have found that a landscape proportion tends to work best. Either choose 3x2 or 4x3.

Be patient

Finally, be patient. Building a great news website, like building anything worthwhile, doesn't happen overnight. It requires hard work and persistance, but eventually, it will happen.

We hope these tips will be useful to people who are planning to publish their own newspaper or magazine website. If you are one of them, please consider dropping by and having a look at ProsePoint Express, our hosted newspaper website builder. It's designed for aspiring publishers like you.

(This article was first posted at Permission is given to reproduce and redistribute as long as the article is unmodified and proper attribution is given.)