how to build a news blogNews blogs are fast-paced blogs which track, aggregate and disseminate current news on a set range of topics. Their main selling points are comprehensiveness and timeliness: a good news blog must cover the field throughly and speedily by pointing readers to new information or developments.
Content for news blogs is published regularly on a daily basis and sometimes multiple times throughout the day. Apart from the value of the actual opinions offered by news bloggers: people subscribe to or follow these news blog largely because they help them to stay on top of current issues, innovations or ideas concerning a industry.
News blogs are also profitable if they are monetized because they publish a very high volume of content, which continuously attracts both search and referral traffic. If you’re an entrepreneur or webmaster looking to generate some online income, a news blog is a good foundation to start with because you’ll never run out of content: the consistent news flow drives you to publish regularly.
If you’re interested in a specific field, publishing a news blog forces you to keep up with what other people are talking about. It’s different from just reading other blogs because you’ll participate by contributing your own ideas or opinions. This is a good way for you to build a strong online reputation.
This article and others to come in this mini-series will examine what you need to create a successful and popular news blog.

Determining Your Information Sources: An Essential First Step

You’ve picked a domain name/brand, bought web hosting, installed a blogging platform, chose a blog design and optimized your site. What’s the next step? You need something to write about and picking the right informational sources will make sure that your news blog is not only relevant but timely and unique.
Let’s look at how you can create a list of news sources. I’ve broken the entire process in 10 points: you can choose to only use some of these sources although I would recommend exploring all of them if you have the time.
The only essential tool you really need as a news blogger is a robust RSS feed reader. It is very time consuming to check multiple websites several times a day for new content and the easiest way to go about it is to pull all the content into one cohesive location, which is your feed reader.
Whenever possible, you should always subscribe to news source’s web feed and categorize it accordingly in your feed reader. If you don’t use a feed reader, I recommend Google Reader or Feed Demon for Windows and NetNewsWire or other online feed readers for Mac.
Here are the 10 information sources you can use for your news blog.

1. Other Blogs in the Same Niche
Image Credit: the journalist’s blogroll
One of the best ways to find interesting news is to subscribe to other blogs in your niche. This includes both other news blogs and non-news blogs and I suggest that you pay extra attention to blogs which specialize in a sub-niche because they are usually the ones who publish unique content worth mentioning.
There are several ways to find other blogs in your niche:
  • Search Engines: Do a search for topic + ‘blog’ using Google.com or try their blog search engine, which allows you to do an advanced search so you can only look for blogs with the topic keyword (‘cars’ ‘food’ etc) in the blog title. This increases the relevance of the search results. Other blog search engines you can use include Ask.com, which allows you to sort results according to popularity. Technorati’s search also allows you to sort results according to authority, which is the number of links pointing to each blog.
  • Blogrolls: Some of the blogs in your niche will have blogrolls or a links page with links to other relevant blogs or news sources. This is an excellent to surf around and find other relevant blogs which cover the same topic.
  • Blog directories: A simple Google search for ‘blog directory’ will give you a good amount of sites to look through. Technorati has a blog directory which includes each blog’s authority score so you’ll have a rough gauge of popularity for each blog. Blog Catalog, Google Directory and Best of the Web are also good places to check out. If you’re using a directory, the most important thing is to make sure that the blog is still active. Don’t be surprised if you find lots of dormant sites sitting in blog directories.
  • Personal Recommendations: Sometimes the easiest way is to ask your friends or members of a forum for recommendations on sites you should check out. The benefit of personal recommendations is that you’ll almost always come across good weblogs. It’s a good way to weed out most of the junk.

2. Social News and Bookmarking Websites
Social news communities like Digg, Reddit and Mixx are great places to find a good source of both news and non time-sensitive content. Some niche social news websites will also allow you to network with other bloggers or webmasters in the same field and is quite useful for you to develop some useful connections.
Check out each social news website and subscribe to the frontpage or the appropriate category of news. Here is a list of social news sites to use.
You can also use unique sites like StumbleUpon to channel-surf specific tags that relate to your website. Personally, I feel that StumbleUpon is not an efficient method of accessing news because its slow and the content is often dated. However, it is useful for getting quirky or offbeat information not found elsewhere.
I highly recommend subscribing to the RSS feeds of active stumblers, instead of using the toolbar to stumble pages yourself. This is much more efficient way of accessing news via StumbleUpon. Make use of influencers who share content.
Social bookmarking websites will display what their users bookmark online and all these links are organized by tags. Content on social bookmarking sites is not always current but it’s a good place to find some obscure gems. The best way to process this information is to subscribe to these tags and put them in your feed reader.
When it comes to social bookmarking websites, don’t waste time surfing around and actively looking for content. Let your subscribed tag feeds collect in your feed reader and peruse them periodically. There are many social bookmarking sites out and you don’t need to use them all. I recommend using del.icio.us, furl and ma.gnolia.

3. Keyword Watchlists
google alerts
This refers to the monitoring of specific keyphrases or keywords related to your blog in order to pick up on relevant news. Technorati has a Watchlist feature which allows you to monitor several keyphrases when they are used by blogs.
Google Alerts is watchlist tool I like a lot because it can email you with links quite frequently on a as-it-happens basis. You can also subscribe via RSS for keyword watchlists on sites like Twitter through Tweetscan or Twemes.
Some RSS feed readers like Feed Demon allow you to set up watchlists to monitor specific keywords that appear in all your feeds. This is very useful if you subscribe to a lot of web feeds as you may often miss out on relevant content.

4. Meme Trackers
Meme trackers are websites which organize blog posts on specific topics according to an automatic algorithm that determines which articles are cited or discussed the most. They give you a general overview of what’s being discussed in a specific niche at the moment
These meme trackers usually include a list of blog posts linking or related to the news story in question. This is useful when you want to write a quick news post and want to reference other blogs talked about it. Examples of meme trackers include Techmeme, TailRank, Megite and Technorati.
Meme trackers also exist for social media services like Twitter in the form of Tweetmeme and Twemes, which loosely organize conversations and links passed around by Twitter users. Not always an excellent source for breaking news but still useful to capture some off-the-radar information.
As always, subscribe to the RSS feed for each meme-trackers and monitor them a few times a day. They are an convenient source of content ideas and news.

5. News Aggregators
news aggregators popurls
News aggregators are somewhat similar to meme trackers and social news sites except that they do not use any algorithm to determine story visibility. They are simply webpages which pull in RSS feeds to centralize them in one location online.
For example, here’s a short list of SEO News Aggregators, which focus on aggregating the web feeds of selected blogs writing about SEO. Other general online aggregators include Alltop and Popurls. I think aggregators can be useful if you don’t like to use web feeds or when you need a quick overview of what’s happening in a niche.
Personally, I don’t really fancy using them because I always tend to overlook news items because of their format. I prefer archiving my news through the feed reader because it allows me to search through and categorize content more easily.

6. Online Newspapers and Magazines
Online newspapers and magazines will provide you with a lot of news on your chosen topic and its a good complement to blogs and social news websites, which may sometimes overlook a particular piece of news.
Online newspapers also has the advantage of offering localized news on either a national or city-basis. This is useful if you run a news blog that is divided in country or region-based coverage. Start first by subscribing to the major news outlets like the BBC, CNN and New York Times.
After which, subscribe to sources which focus more on specific angles of interest. For example, if you’re running a celebrity gossip website, you should subscribe to the Daily Mail and People.com, both of which are sites with a strong emphasis on celebrity and other tabloid-style news.
Always subscribe to online magazine/newspaper feeds according to the specific news category. You don’t need to subscribe to a entire news-site because most of the news will be irrelevant to your interests. You don’t want to overload your attention with stories you cannot use for your blog.

7. Academic Journals and Trade Publications
Image Credit: little
Academic journals and trade publications often publish reports which you can highlight on your blog in the form of news. This usually includes polls, statistical analysis of a specific phenomenon or reports on the performance of an industry. Not all of these publications are free and some do require a paid subscription.
It’s possible to obtain complimentary copies of these academic journals regularly, if you’re a blogger with a certain degree of clout. In some scenarios, publishing houses will be willing to send you new books or journals in return for a mention on your website. It is also possible to obtain these journals by being a contributing member of a scholarly society or educational institute.
The content published in these journals is not news per se but not many bloggers pick up on these info sources so it’s an easy means for you to inject new ideas or content into the industry. This is a terrific way to position yourself as a thought-leader or maven.

8. Press Releases and Media Contacts
PR News Wire press releases
When you are starting out as a relatively unknown blogger, you need to take the initiative to accumulate media contacts. Email companies and web services which are relevant to your site’s topical focus and inform them that you are open to receiving email press releases from their marketing/PR department.
You’ll usually be put on an email list and you can take this chance to initiate better relationships with the specific PR manager/executive. Ideally, you want to be invited to launch parties and networking events as a member of the press.
You can also monitor Press Release sites like PR News Wire, which offers well categorized RSS feeds for specific industries. Press releases are great sources of direct information from both large companies and small businesses. Sometimes they can be a effective way for you to get the scoop on a big news story.

9. Insider Information
celebrity magazines
Image Credit: the scoop
This involves establishing inside sources within organizations or companies who will be willing to leak information for a big story. How do you develop these inside sources? Networking in the right places with the right people would be a strategy or you can simply offer to publicly offer to pay for scoops from people in the know.
In any case, ‘inside sources’ are often made up by bloggers and online journalists, in order to get attention and pageviews. For instance, this is very common amongst celebrity blogs because they are in the gossip manufacturing business: readers don’t mind too much if they hear another rumor that may be proven false at a later stage.
Just note that repeatedly offering false information may detract from your credibility so use inside sources only when you are very confident of their authenticity.

10. Reader Tips
Last but not least, your blog readers are great source of information. Set up a tips email account and publicize it on your website. You might not get many tips in the beginning when your site is new but this will change as your news site grows.
Several large blogs like Lifehacker and Boing Boing receive a good amount of reader tips daily and some of them are worthy enough to be transformed into a blog post. Personally, I really like this idea because this is a passive way of receiving news. Instead of actively searching for content, you’ll getting them sent to you.
Make sure your tips hotline is clearly visible from the site. Here’s a good example of a story suggestion page you can use for your site.

And this concludes the list of information sources you can use. In the next article in this series, I’ll talk more about the specific tools you can use to increase your blogging efficiency as a news blogger.
For future reference, feel free to bookmark this article at del.icio.us
If you have any suggestions for topics I should cover in this series on building a successful news blog, please leave them in the comments! This includes any questions you want to see answered concerning this topic.


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