This is a guest post by Niall Harbison.
The media landscape is changing right in front of our eyes – we have moved from a world where large organizations controlled the media we consumed to a more democratic time where everybody has a voice. Because of the huge shifts in technology, anybody can start their own media empire with a small amount of money, lots of drive and a creative mind.
Two of the biggest examples are Techcrunch and Mashable which were both started by individuals in their own homes and in less than five years have each become worth close to $50 million. So how would you go about creating your own little media empire and what are the barriers to entry?
Find A Platform
Even the biggest blogs and news sites in the world these days are built on free platforms like WordPress, Blogger or Tumblr. Whereas in the past you needed an expensive printing press and had huge overheads you can start your own site within a couple of minutes absolutely free.
If you are getting a little more serious about things you might need your own domain name, a professional template and some hosting but you can be up and running for less than $500. Three or four years ago you needed more technical knowledge like HTML and CSS but the platforms are so good now that all you really have to focus on is creating great content and growing an audience.
Identify Your Niche
There is lots of competition online with plenty of people churning out content trying to grab an audience so you are going to have to find a niche and really focus on it. You are going to have to find something that you are extremely passionate about and stick to that. The biggest, most acclaimed blogs on the Internet are written by people who have huge passion for their subject.
While it might be tempting to drift off topic and cover a wide range of subjects you will get more traffic and a bigger audience in a shorter period of time if you remain focused and produce excellent content within your niche.
Growing an Audience
If you wanted to build you authority in old media it meant finding a job at a publication that already had an audience and piggybacking off them. If you are starting out on your own you are going to have to grow your own audience from scratch, which seems like a daunting task, but the good news is the tools are there to help you.
The first thing you will have to do is grow huge personal brand. Look at Pete Cashmore at Mashable, Mike Arrington at Techcrunch or Arianna Huffington at the Huffington Post and you can see how important the personal brand of the founders is.
You can do this through tools like Twitter, Google + and by engaging with other bloggers within your niche – this is absolutely vital if you are to succeed. This part is going to take time and you will be writing posts that only have a handful of readers at the start but over time your readers will grow. Don’t expect to get much traction within the first few months and expect to put a years hard slog in to growing your audience at the very least.
There are no short cuts to this part. No magic tricks to get millions of readers. It is all down to pure hard work.
Using Rich Media
Not only do you have a free blogging platform to use but you can also embed all sorts of rich media. With over 200 million blogs in the world you are going to have to make your one stand out from the crowd and using tools like video, audio, photos or visual designs is a great way of doing that.
There are 100s of different ways in which you can use video, for example, and platforms like Youtube are not only free but will also help you get some great exposure. Maybe you could start your own podcast using software like Audioboo or a simple photo blog using the 100s of different options out there.
Build Your Network And Absorb Information
Just like a journalist would build up their contacts and their sources you are going to have to network your ass off. The old way would have seen you shaking hands and swapping business cards in the real world but now you can do it all online and all you need is a laptop and a WIFI connection.
Start talking to the people who are influencers within your niche online. You can watch most press conferences online these days and let people know that they can share information with you that you might publish. Use tools like RSS and Twitter to get the latest news and spend time setting them up properly with as many sources as possible.
You are going to have to become a sponge to absorb as much information as possible but luckily the web is full of it so it’s just about how efficient you can be filtering it all to your own personal needs.
Work Hard, Publish Regularly And Think Big
Once you have all the elements in place above all you have to do is work harder than everybody else to make it to the top. There are no secret shortcuts or fancy tools that will help you achieve your goals overnight. It is going to take you a couple of years to get to the top but if you keep on producing content on a regular basis, create a huge network and stand out from the crowd there is no end to what you can achieve online.
You don’t need much money at all to get started and if you think big and aim for the top there is no reason why you can’t get there. Most of the media companies and blogs selling for $50 million started off in a bedroom just like you could with a laptop, an Internet connection and some big dreams.
Go for it!
About the Author: Niall Harbison is the Co-Founder of Simply Zesty, a social media agency which has grown to 27 employees within 2 years and has a wide range of large international clients. The company blog shares social media tips, news and case studies from around the world. You can find him on Twitter @niallharbison.