6 steps to having a good micronational news website
News websites are a very important part of micronationalism. They provide historical records for the future, as well as being a great way to spread the word about your particular micronation or micronational entity. Therefore, it is very important that you get everything about your news service right.
6. Pick the right software
Even if you have absolutely amazing journalism and writing skills, if you choose the wrong type of software, you won’t get very far at all.
Non-interactive websites and software are no good for our purposes here. Micronational news websites must be flexible and allow site users to interact with and contribute to the website. One way to achieve this is to implement a comments system, where site users can leave their contributions on your website. This both promotes discussion around your website and keeps users coming back to the site.
With this in mind, there are a few exceptional (and free) pieces of CMS (content management system) software out there that can satisfy these and other requirements.
WordPress is the first that springs to mind, not least because this is one of the most popular pieces of blogging software in the world. While its primary focus is blogging, it is very versatile and can be used for basically anything, mostly owing to the wide variety of themes and plugins that extend its functionality.
Another popular CMS is Drupal. While I can’t really speak from experience as I’ve never used it on a live website myself, I have heard very good things about it from many people. Joomla is a related CMS which may also fit the bill for your micronation’s news website.
On a final note for this section, Twitter is not very useful for our purposes, mainly because of the 140 character limit. It can be useful when re-publishing posts from your news website, but standing alone, its functionality is too limited to be of much use.
5. Choose your type of web hosting
In a nutshell, do you want to host the website yourself or have it hosted on a ‘farm’, like wordpress.com? The answer to this question for you depends on a number of factors including size and budget.
If you’re a small budget, the temptation is to go with ‘farm’ style setups, where you get a subdomain of a website and they host your site for you on their network. The problem with this is that you do not have access to the files on the server or the database. Some networks will allow you to export your information, but most will not. This is probably the most important considering to take into account when choosing.
The main reason for people not buying their own domain name and/or hosting is the cost. This has always been bewildering given that a TLD (top-level domain) like .com, .org and .net only cost around $10 per year, and it is possible to get reliable web hosting for only around $12 per year.
In other words, if you can afford to spend $2 a month, you can get yourself your own domain, which in itself is also generally regarded as more ‘respectable’ and authoritative, and web hosting, where you are in total control of all of your data.
4. Have a good theme
Most visitors to websites will decide whether or not to stick around within the first 5-10 seconds of their visit (sometimes even less). If your website looks anything like this or this, you can kiss goodbye to any hope of drawing in any reasonably large number of people to take a proper look at your micronational news website.
There are many news and magazine-specific themes out there for practically any CMS or other software that you choose to use. There are some pretty atrocious news and magazine themes out there too, so choose carefully.
As general rules of thumb, you’re looking for a theme that’s fairly clean, isn’t full of useless features that will slow down your website and is designed for a news/magazine/blog format. Some good examples of this are the A1 News Service theme ( 😀 ) and the Francillian theme.
3. Write articles properly
Ok now that you have the appearance sorted out, let’s get into what is arguably the most important part of your micronational news website – its content.
Basic spelling and grammar is easy to learn, plus you should’ve paid attention in school. If you didn’t, then now’s the time you pay for it. Hardly anybody is going to read anything that loocks laik dis. Correct spelling and grammar not only assists the appearance of your site, it is the very core of what you are doing – journalism. If you can’t string together sentences properly, get someone to write for your site who can, seek someone’s assistance or learn it yourself (and pay attention in school).
The style of writing is also very important. There are countless ways to apply your writing skills across a wide range of fields, from recipes to fantasy novels, and each one has its own style.
For writing articles on a micronational news website, it’s important to remember to never write in the first person (i.e. ‘I’, ‘me’), keep your sentences succinct and to the point, use a formal tone and make sure that your article flows well.
Stay tuned for a more specific guide on writing articles for micronational news websites.
2. Give people a reason to visit
Micronational news websites are a dime a dozen. Most internet micronations have some sort of news agency or blog that they attempt to use to keep their citizens and other interested people updated on whatever topic(s) they’ve chosen. For this reason, you have to give people a reason to visit your website. Why would they visit yours if it’s similar to other websites?
Giving your news website a reason to exist and carving a niche for it are essential to getting and keeping visitors. Instead of trying to report on every single possible micronational story, why not just confine your news website to a particular topic or community of micronations? Or how about focussing more on opinion pieces and editorials instead of raw news reporting? There are many options and it’s up to you to find the one that suits you and your website the best.
1. Keep it going
No matter how good your preparation and initial content is, it all counts for nothing unless you keep it updated with new articles and other content.
Of course, you don’t have to update it every single hour or day, but establishing and keeping a ‘steady as she goes’ pace gives your readers both confidence that you’re not just going to suddenly disappear into thin air, and a sense of reliability that helps to build up the prestige and good image of the news agency.
You’ll probably find that in some weeks there will be little or no news to report on and in other weeks, or even days, there will be many more stories to report on or editorials to write. The key to all this is learning to respond to what is already happening rather than trying to construct artificial activity or news stories. Try to avoid ‘slow news day’ articles like this and this.