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Hi everyone, and a hearty welcome to our new subscribers Les, Justine, Alicia, Matthew, Mack and Shannan. We're glad you're here!

We've got a surprise in this week's Alliance newsletter. Bridget Thoreson, the Engagement Manager at Hearken, is stopping by to talk about network mapping. Don't know what network mapping is or what it has to do with journalism -- especially at your local news publication? Well then this newsletter is for you.

So without further ado, please give a warm welcome to our very special guest star, Bridget Thoreson!

Making your outreach roadmap with network mapping

by Bridget Thoreson, Engagement Manager, Hearken

One of the first questions newsrooms ask me when they're considering engagement journalism is where to start. Today I'd like to share a simple but powerful exercise to provide a roadmap for reaching out to specific audiences to inform your reporting.

First, a word on engagement - I work at Hearken, an engagement consultancy serving newsrooms, and we define engagement as a feedback loop with your audiences. This goes beyond getting likes on social media to providing pathways for audience members to ask questions that directly inform your reporting. 

On to network mapping!

This exercise is included in the Citizens Agenda guide for engaged elections reporting (available for free download here), and was part of the Election SOS training taken by 134 journalists from 63 newsrooms last year. One of our participants was such a fan that she wrote a Nieman Lab piece outlining the impact this approach had for her own newsroom and others. 

First, on a piece of paper or on your computer, put the topic you are interested in covering in a circle in the center. If you're interested in pursuing engagement outreach for all your coverage, your news outlet can go here. 

Next, start drawing stakeholder groups connected to the central circle. These groups can be defined any way - by demographic info, by interests, by platform usage. Audience members can belong to more than one circle. 

You can also use visual cues as you map - if this is an especially large part of your audience, give them an especially large circle. If they're superfans, put them close to the center, etc. Use cues that make sense to you. Here's an example of the start of a network map from the Citizens Agenda guide: 
Next, keep going! Keep adding circles even after you start running out of ideas. This is where things get really creative. 

Last, look at groups that are not on your map. Who are you not currently reaching who may want to connect to your news coverage on this topic? List them on the side. You can find ways to reach them. 

Once you've drafted your map, take a look and identify just one group to start reaching out to. Think of existing platforms where you could connect with them, both those run by your newsroom and external platforms. 

You can revisit this map and add to it as often as you like. By identifying stakeholders for your coverage, you'll have a better sense of who you're trying to reach, what you can offer them and where to go next with your engagement work. 

If you'd like to learn more about network mapping, or other ways to approach engagement and build trust with your audiences, please join us April 7 for our free virtual summit
Thanks to Bridget for joining us this week! I'd be interested to see what kind of network mapping you all can do for projects you are working on, or for your publications in general. Just reply to this email or tap here and let me know how it goes.

I'm sure Bridget would enjoy hearing your experiences with network mapping, as well. You can reach out to her on Twitter @BridgetThoreson.

NewStart Update

Our first cohort of NewStart students continues to make great strides. That includes Crystal Good, who this week moderated a live event on Facebook entitled "Young, Gifted & Black West Virginia Policymakers." You can watch a replay of the virtual discussion here.
Are you interested in enrolling in our online master's degree program and earning a degree in Media Solutions and Innovation? The application period is now open to everyone! We have a limited number of slots, and they are already starting to be filled.

You can find out more about the program at this link, and then you can apply by clicking/tapping on the button below and following the instructions:
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As a reminder, we also started a Facebook page for the NewStart program. So feel free to like or follow our page to check out some interesting links and thoughts each and every week and join in on the discussion.
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Do Good Work

I often hear from people who want to newsletter recommendations -- not to read but to emulate. Here are two recent ones I found to be very thorough and have crisp layouts.

Spotlight PA, which covers statewide news in Pennsylvania, has a tremendous newsletter template. Check it out here.

It doesn't just give you some links to coverage, but really makes the newsletter a standalone service that is informative, entertaining and engaging. From the quotes of the day to the event listings to the weekly rundown and The Riddler, it really makes you want to open it each time it hits your inbox to learn something new.

Meanwhile, The Devil Strip in Akron, Ohio, puts together a superb twice-weekly newsletter full of stories, resources, job postings and more. Take a look at it here.

Don't just think of newsletters as a dumping ground for links to stories you've done, and don't think of it as just a digital version of a print product. You should be honored that subscribers are allowing you direct access to their inbox.  Create something that will make them want to open and explore, and give them a reason to keep subscribing and looking forward to opening the next one.

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Speaking of newsletters ... do you know someone who would be interested in subscribing to the NewStart Alliance? Yes? Perfect. You should pass it along to them and tell them to subscribe!

Just hit one of these buttons below to share it with your friends, family and coworkers.
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Quick Hits

Here is a lot of informative news from around the world of local journalism. Enjoy! 

Learn: "We asked news publishers to tell us how much potential value they thought different retention strategies could have. This was independent of whether the publisher was doing these things or doing them well. The results show what aspects of subscriber retention are considered most important. This allowed us to identify gaps — or areas that might be valuable of which many publishers are not taking advantage." For most newspaper companies, growing digital subscriptions has been key to survival as the COVID-19 pandemic dramatically reduced advertising revenue. At LMA’s Accelerate Local 2021 event, we assembled an all-star panel of five experts to share their successes in growing digital subscriptions. Here are five valuable tips they offered. "Here’s what every nonprofit news leader needs to know about the difference between advertising and sponsorship in non-legal language." "Our research leaves us with two insights: one is that news organisations will need to keep experimenting with ways to get people to their sites. The other is that the news industry as a whole needs to negotiate with news aggregators to ensure fair treatment for all." Kentucky Professor Buck Ryan Describes His ‘Participatory Case Study’ With the Chatham News + Record. "We live in an age of abundance, and few things are as abundant as content. In any given hour, humanity publishes so much content that it would take over a century to subtweet it all. Despite the overload, you can still break through. The key is to find the white space. Avoid the logjams of well-trodden topics. Seek out – and claim – new ground. Change what – or when – you're publishing to stand out." "We offer here our first white paper on how local news can be an essential service by working first to meet local information needs.  We offer the experiences we have gathered over almost five years not to be prescriptive of limitations for what local news can be. Instead, we offer the lessons we have learned and the projects we learn from only as a place to build from when trying to create more value with local news and information services."  "In a recent interview with Indiegraf, Ryan Tuck outlines all the ins and outs of tech stacks, specifically those for independent publishers and start-up media companies." "Some internet users are responding to covid-19 fact-checks with death threats and abusive messages. Reporters, newsroom leaders and social platforms all need to work together to counter online attacks." "There’s no real reason you have to use a platform like Substack to send email. If you want to get into making a newsletter of your own, understand your options." "Bringing together working groups of ad operations, technology leaders and audience data experts, the LMC partnered with digital news media and advertising technology veteran Scott Cunningham to design this initiative and chart a new path of sustainability for its members." "Direct Publishing offers the potential for news organisations to take back control of their content, brand and data."

This An' 'At: "Still, for the past two and a half years, we have been running a two-person news operation that relies entirely on 21st century tools: a WordPress website, an email newsletter, a private Facebook discussion group for subscribers. The most heartening thing about the experience has been the affirmation from our readers — that they want reliable, fact-based local journalism, and they are willing to pay for it." "The key is thinking of philanthropy not as lightning-bolt-from-the-sky charity, or as the only type of support, but rather as the third revenue stream. It needs to be developed as a persistent, ongoing source of income, alongside subscriptions and advertising, the two primary sources of local news support to date." "Journalist Elizabeth Green believes treating, and funding, local journalism as a public goodwill usher in a wave of much-needed civic engagement and change." "The Select Board voted Wednesday to use an online-only publication for all of its legal notices, a move that’s been debated in the past." "The impending takeover of The Hartford Courant by a cost-cutting hedge fund, Alden Global Capital, was decried in testimony Thursday before a legislative committee weighing an unusual bill that would give the state a role in the newspaper’s finances." "Sports-media outlet the Athletic is in merger talks with news startup Axios, according to people familiar with the matter, part of a plan to build a larger online-publishing company that could include going public through a blank-check firm." "Albert Perrine Smith, Jr., a noted Kentucky journalist, public citizen and co-founder of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues (publisher of The Rural Blog), died peacefully Friday, March 19 at home in Sarasota, Florida."


That's all for this week. 

You can follow NewStart on Twitter @wvunewstart, and you can @ me @jimiovino.

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