How to Start a Small Newspaper Business

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Stories abound about problems within the newspaper industry. However, the serious problems are with large newspapers. Anyone thinking of getting into the business can be heartened by the fact that smaller newspapers often do quite well. Newspapers serve a vital societal function. They can be fun and profitable for an entrepreneur, but they require time and hard work---lots of both---plus a solid financial plan, to be successful. If you want to publish a newspaper, it is important to know your audience and how to attract money to keep the publication in business.

Things You'll Need

  • Computer
  • High-speed Internet
  • Desktop publishing software
  • Digital camera
  • Cell phone
  • Reliable car

Creating a plan

  • Survey your community and find out which audiences might not be well served by other publications. Talk to people to get an idea of their interests and needs. Look at businesses that could be potential advertisers for your publication.

  • Find an affordable and reliable printer. Newspapers cannot be printed at the local copy shop, and printing is likely to be your top expense. Shop around---local daily and weekly newspapers that own their own printing presses often are willing to take on other jobs but some printers specialize in publishing community newspapers.

  • Establish advertising rates that will cover the costs of publication, including your own pay. You can find examples online or get rates from similar regional publications. It is important to set rates that advertisers can afford and will cover your bills.

  • Decide how you will get your newspapers to readers. Direct mail can saturate a wide area but is expensive; home delivery is time-consuming and will likely involve paying delivery people. Most efficient, especially in the beginning, is to ask local businesses to carry your paper near the checkout.

  • Develop contacts by joining the Chamber of Commerce and local service organizations. You will meet leaders in the community as well as business owners. When they know who you are and what you're doing, they are more likely to support you than if you show up at their door.

Organizing coverage

  • Set up your staff. If you cannot afford a staff, consider the possibility of accepting interns from the local college or high school. Every community has wanna-be writers; check out the home-grown talent, including retirees with prior writing or newspaper experience who want to stay active.

  • Contact local schools, businesses, government agencies, social organizations and other groups. They can provide free information for your paper as well as built-in readership. Be ready to edit or rewrite the content.

  • Get familiar with publishing programs such as InDesign or Quark Xpress. Knowing how to use a digital camera and Adobe PhotoShop is essential. Readers will expect a competent job of editing and layout.

  • Prepare your publication according to your printer's specifications. These days nearly all newspapers send portable document format files (PDFs) directly to the printer by email or file transfer. Once printed, the papers can be delivered to your door, ready for distribution to your waiting readers.

Tips & Warnings

  • Deadlines are vital to an efficient operation. Set deadlines for stories, editing and layout and hold everyone accountable to them--especially yourself.
  • Check into grants for establishing a newspaper. Female and minority entrepreneurs, for example, might network through local social agencies to find available grant money.
  • Many computers come equipped with free layout and photo editing software, which can save money, but is not always compatible with a printer nor as flexible as the commercial programs.
  • Use caution in accepting volunteer contributors. Undependable and untalented writers can cause more problems than they solve.
  • Publishing a newspaper is extremely time-consuming. Be prepared for long hours and missed weekends until money is available to hire a staff.

References

  • Photo Credit man reading newspaper image by Joyce Wilkes from Fotolia.com
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