Doesn’t that make it official?
My nephew told his dad that “newspapers are for old people.” That kind of puts in perspective.
Frankly, we need local journalism, and if it hopes ever to survive, it will need to be digital.
Now, it isn’t easy to start a digital journalism website. Certain responsibilities come with being a journalist.
You can, however, create a niche or hyperlocal lifestyle site, and since you know how to build websites, you are already halfway there.
If you are a publisher of a website on WordPress or you are wanting to be, there is a Publisher WordCamp.
A couple of times, I tried a niche site before. I grew a decent audience the first time but made very little money. I didn’t know everything I needed to know.
A couple of years ago, I embarked on another experiment. When I failed before, one of the things I learned, the bigger the target audience, the harder it was to create interest.
So this time around, I focused on the town where I live. The city is about 60K people, so it is a decent enough size.
The really nice thing is that in the process, I created a platform that can be used in various ways.
Monetization is always the question. Often I would be asked, “How are you going to make money?”
My response was, “I’ll let you know when I figure it out.”
As I decided to do this, I started following the work that Scott Ellis was doing with his Lifestyle Frisco blog. I learned a lot from his model and implemented some of the same tactics.
It got me to thinking, website agencies who focus on the local community could use a hyperlocal lifestyle blog to create a platform for their own business.
So, if you decide that you are going to do this to give your agency another stream of revenue or leads, then I am going to give you some of the lessons I learned along the way.
Here are nine things I learned building my hyperlocal lifestyle blog.
1. Build your email list
One of the best ways to get traffic is by getting readers to return to your website. One of the best ways to do that is by building your email list.
We did several things to help build the list, including giving out coupons to local establishments. This past Spring, we ran a contest for a few prizes local business owners had given me.
I find, so far, that coupons have been the best way to get new sign-ups. It helps keep the community engaged.
2. Build the platform before getting the money
We are to the point where people are asking us to advertise. This is just beginning to happen. In essence, we are in the process of building inbound marketing.
Why would anyone want to advertise or sponsor when you don’t have an audience?
Give them a reason.
When you build the platform, people are paying attention and interested in what you are doing.
3. Track metrics
Well, this goes without saying, right? Make sure you are tracking numbers. Installing Google Analytics from the beginning is a great idea.
We also pay attention to our social media numbers in terms of our audience. We mix in the number of people on our email list.
4. Tell stories of interesting people.
The first couple of years, I decided to run a “Meet your Barista” series. I think it worked pretty well because we had three coffee shops and people want to know about these young people serving them their drinks.
We also told stories of interesting people in town. We featured a musician, a couple of farm to table restaurants, young entrepreneurs, and much more.
5. Tap into local resources
We were able to connect with the university to receive press releases. This was huge because it gave us content to fill the gap.
We publish press releases from the university for lifestyle events. For example, we have the only Shakespeare Theatre in the state of Arkansas. They run performances in the Summer with several visiting actors.
6. Find a real need and meet it
People told me early on that the biggest need was a centralized calendar.
Therefore, I got a popular calendar plugin with automatic import features from Facebook and set it up. It worked well.
For a while. . .
Then Facebook changed their API. That was the end of that.
So, I wondered what I was going to do when a young lady in the community approached me with an idea.
She would curate a list of all of most of the events, and we would list them in bullet form on a single page.
It was low tech, but it worked. Now it is a big drawing point to our website.
As she said, “People come for the events, and they stay for the stories.”
7. Be patient, very patient
Unless you are gifted with a bunch of cash to speed up the process, you will need to be very patient.
This is slow, organic growth. I remember when we struggled to break 700 likes on Facebook. I was excited when we hit 800, and then with one share from another Facebook page with more likes, we jumped to over 1,000 in just a few days.
You need to be in the community shaking hands at events. There is a lot of networking.
It just takes time.
8. Be flexible – you may need to take a breath.
We breathed a sigh of relief after Toad Suck Daze in May (yes that’s an event). At that point, the Spring came to an end, and so did the plethora of events.
I literally took my foot off the gas.
The same was true in late December/early January. Coming off the Christmas season was a chance to relax, and that is okay.
9. Ride the wave of events and seasons.
Your community will have a wave of events. You will be extremely busy during that time and find it hard to do anything else. Ride it until the momentum dies down.
During the down times, you can do more planning and creating evergreen content.
Wrapping it up
If you do this right, you will be a valuable asset to your community. People spend so much time doing their business, their jobs, that they don’t often have time to engage more in the community.
Those that are engaged appreciate the help in spreading their word. When you build something this valuable, you become an asset in your community as a person and a company.
It’s also a chance to give back. Whether or not you get business from having a hyperlocal lifestyle site, you are making your community a better place.
I suspect that, after some time, people will be looking to see how you can help them in their business. It becomes much more than just building websites as you become a digital marketing authority.
You can create all kinds of products that will help them, whether it is consulting, digital marketing, graphic design, or more.
Is this something you would consider? Have you launched a hyperlocal website? Let us know in the comments below.