Newsies read Jim Romenesko’s Media News page every day for fresh evidence of the demise of newspapers, journalism and all we hold dear.
I wonder how many realize that Romenesko is the future of news, and has been every working day for the last decade. What Jim did was vanishingly obvious: identified an audience with a shared self-interest and sent them a daily digest of news they were interested in. He doesn’t have millions of readers like Drudge or Perez Hilton, but I’m guessing he does have about 100,000 (roughly the number of people working in news, last time I looked).
What I’m thinking is: anywhere you can find a 100k audience, you can make a living as a journalist online. The hard part is identifying the audience. The good news is if you start writing about stuff they care about and send a constant stream of timely news via a blog, they will find you. It might take a year or two and you’ll have to bone up on developing a blog, learning search engine optimization and monetizing it via paid clicks (eg, Google AdSense) but the main thing is: those audiences are out there.
Awhile back my wife and I were talking about Caterpillar Inc., the world’s largest manufacturer of earthmoving equipment, which is based in my hometown. Cat runs everything in Peoria so it’s always creeping into the conversations of folks who grew up there. We reasoned that Cat has 100,000 employees worldwide who should be interested in a centralized site for Caterpillar-related news and links. Surely a company of this size with revenue in the tens of billions has a dozen blogs devoted to it already, right? Nope.
Now there’s one. I started Cat Stock Blog in mid-December with the idea of answering a simple question on the mind of everybody who works there: how’s the stock doing? I found a free service that provides free stock chart quotes, assembled a mass of links, designed my site logo and just started posting Cat news all within a week of coming up with the idea. The audience is small today, but over time people who work there will get in the habit of checking the site just as we newsies go to Romenesko every day. Here’s one interesting tidbit: Right now Cat workers represent a tiny fraction of my readership, meaning it could go well beyond the 100k figure.
I’ll be the first to admit that blogging about tractors is not the sexiest topic on Earth. I’d much rather blog about cars, movies, rock ‘n’ roll or walking in the woods, but the first three are covered to death and the last one has very small audience potential (hikers don’t blog, bloggers don’t hike; it’s just how it is).
Romenesko lucked out early on by securing a deal with the Poynter Institute, but I’m guessing by now his brand is strong enough that he’ll survive even if Poynter, which owns the St. Petersburg Times, decides he’s too expensive.
The rest of us will not be so lucky: we’ll have to fight, scratch and blog our way to financial security. It’ll force all of us to learn some things about the money side of the biz that we never worried about before. Maybe most of us don’t have all the aptitudes we need. But people in the news biz are curious by nature and addicted to the Next Big Thing.
The Romenesko Effect is simple: blog about something that hits people where they live — their jobs — and they start showing up, habitually. We can do it much better than anybody else can. If we let ourselves find that 100k audience, the future will take care of itself.