Memo to the new P-I: Don’t look back
Don’t look back.
You can’t replicate your old newspaper – or any other one, either. Don’t try. Put your resources into the stories you want to do, not the ones you think you are obligated to do.
Make the new site look different, sound different and act different. Because it is different.
Cop an attitude.
Think of the site as a more of a blog than a newspaper. Pick your targets. Put a forward spin on the coverage. Write in an impassioned voice. Let every writer’s personality shine through.
Let the Seattle Times, local broadcasters and the wires cover the beats and write the ordinary stories. Leverage local bloggers, featuring the best stuff from them as though you had written it yourself. (Most of them will love you for it. Leave out the few who don’t.)
Go hyper for local.
Everyone on the staff should be trying to recruit new writers, new voices and new sources of content that you can aggregate to make your site the hands-down, go-to community forum. Staffers should be formally tasked to gin up hyper-local contributions from pastors, police chiefs and PTA presidents. Prominently feature the best of their work as though it were your own.
Make them pay, Part 1.
Create exclusive premium content and make subscribers pay for it from the very first day. If you start out giving away everything for free, it will be difficult to ever go back. (See also “Original Sin.”)
Make them pay, Part 2.
Limit the number of ad positions and stick to the highest possible rates. Don’t use cheap filler ads, because they degrade the value of your inventory. Sell 13-, 26- and 52-week sponsorships. Instead of fixating on page views, sell brand visibility, civic responsibility and the opportunity to be front and center before the shakers and movers of Seattle.
The work you do will play a major role in helping to define the future – and the future economics – of local news coverage. Take risks, try everything and have fun. Whatever you do, don’t look back.