THE BLOG

So You Want to Start An English-Language News Site?

06/23/2014 10:55 am ET | Updated Aug 25, 2014

Friends and acquaintances across the Middle East/North Africa region often ask for advice on matters related to journalism, media in general, ethics, and how to prepare young people for this very exciting and ever-changing field.

On a recent visit to an Arab traditional print media news organization, the CEO-cum-editor in chief asked me what it would take to set up an English-language website alongside the existing Arabic one and if I'd consider running it, or at least knew of qualified editors who could help launch and operate it.

I went to the meeting after having analyzed the existing Arabic-language site that I consult on a daily basis with a list of questions, the answers to which would determine how I'd proceed and what counsel to offer.

While the conversation and organization will remain confidential, I'd like to share the questions, as I feel their relevance crosses borders, and could be useful to other publishers considering bi- or multi-lingual sites.

Questions for XXX:

1. Why did you decide to create XXX.com?

2. How big an operation is it? How many staffers and what are their job descriptions?

3. What type of hardware and software will you use?

4. What specific type of editing software will you use for text, graphics, audio and video?

5. What reporting equipment will you use and how compatible will it be with the home office? Are reporters trained to shoot photos and video?

6. Who has the final say on content? How many editors?

7. Do you have staffers trained in data journalism, data mining, curating, analysis?

8. What are the pages, sections of the website? How do you divide them?

9. How much content do you plan to create/produce per day?

10. What is your raison d'être? Will you have one posted on the site?

11. Will you have adequate "About Us" information posted?

12. Will you have good "Contact Us" information posted?

13. How transparent will you be about the site and its contents?

14. Will there be sponsored content/native advertising disguised as reporting?

15. Is media ethics part of your plan?

16. What type of audience engagement are you planning? What social media will you use?

17. Will you have a full-time person in charge of social media?

18. Have you conducted any audience analysis to find out who will browse the site?

19. Will you use metrics/analytics to evaluate your journalism?

20. What/who is your competition?

21. Are you willing to hire foreigners familiar with the scene if need be, who are fluent in Arabic, until there's a team of well-versed locals who can write and edit properly in English?

22. What is the focus of your content? What gets/will get the most attention?

23. Are you willing to produce and publish long investigative pieces and bear the consequences? Will you be an online watchdog?

24. Is there a specific target audience? Are you creating a niche website?

25. Are you willing to experiment with Asahi Shimbun's "trinity model" for mobile based on data journalism, immersive design, youth engagement?

26. Will you have a dedicated YouTube channel?

27. It's said that the key drivers of marketing are: "change, speed, agility, and partnering." Have you factored them into your equation?

28. It's also said that geography in the newsroom is key: having coders, designers, product people in the same room. Is that what you plan?

29. Will XXX.com share space in the regular newsroom? Will traditional journalists resent that?

30. Will any of the Arabic content from the print and/or online edition be included in the English version?

31. How much weight will you give to reporting, enterprise journalism for the English version?

32. How much of the content will be visual, infographics, photos, videos, podcasts, audio?

33. How financially sustainable will the website be? Who's funding it?

34. Will the content be free, freemium, have a paywall, be a combination of the above?

35. What will the ratio of free to paid content be?

36. How much advertising is lined up? Initially, long term?

37. How much will you focus on self-generated surveys? How useful are they?

38. Will you operate cross-platform? Different format for different mobile devices, with matching content or some other scheme?

39. How much of the content will be repackaged for different platforms?

40. Will you partner with other organizations to produce and disseminate content?

41. Will you use gimmicks such as contests, games, events to generate audience following and income?

42. Will you pay contributors on a fixed fee or per piece basis?

43. What salary are you offering? Does it come with benefits? What are they?

44. Is there a contract or agreement on which to base the hiring process?

45. How many hours per day does this job require?

46. If an editor operates from home, would you cover an upgraded Internet connection, cell phone bills, business-related parking in town?