A few suggestions for Prairie Fire newspaper
Several years ago, I spent serious chunk of time researching and planning how to start up a weekly paper. An “alt-weekly”, if you will. Omaha had its “Reader”, which had some Lincoln coverage. But there was nothing dedicated to the Lincoln community which provided the full range of what a good weekly paper covers – music, politics, culture, art, community. I wrote up a business plan, made prototypes, went to an AAN convention to network, and talked to anyone remotely interested.
Had I been able to connect the idea to the right investor, I might be in a very different place right now.
After it became apparent that i would not be able to launch a print venture, I spent a year or so working to launch an online community at lincolnblog.com (long since mothballed – get in touch if you want the domain). Lincolnblog had very modest success, but after I moved to San Francisco, I didn’t have the time to keep up on the effort, and shut it down.
So, when some folks from Lincoln started the Prairie Fire newspaper, I took notice. A few of the people involved are folks I talked to when I was looking to start a paper.
I happened along the site tonight and noticed that it hadn’t been updated since October, though a bit of Drupal hacking pointed me to November content.
I know some of the folks involved, and respect the effort that they are putting into the project. I wish them the best of luck. I’d also like to share some unsolicited advice – and who doesn’t love that!
Your website is not just an archive
Your website will be the most dynamic part of your publication. Really.
Realizing that your advertisers may value the print version of your publication more (silly advertisers!), so you may need to justify exclusive content in your print edition (for now), but do find any way possible to update the site daily. Blog counter-points to whatever the Journal Star is publishing in its opinion section or write about upcoming community events, bakesale notices — anything! Just don’t let your site become an out-dated graveyard of content.
Develop your online community.
You already let users post comments. Excellent. You have more tools to provide the “thoughtful public discourse” you talk about in your mission statement. Open up forums on your site, develop blogs for your featured writers so that they can post whenever they choose. You may even be able to recycle some of this content back into your monthly print version.
Reach out to Lincoln’s former residents
Like me. You will be offering a view into the ‘Old Country’ not available anywhere else. Offer email newsletters and a consistent RSS feed, which by the way, the Journal Star star has finally opened up to.
Considering the site already runs Drupal, they are well on the way to providing a much better online experience. I look forward to seeing how you guys make it grow.