The Guardian newspaper has just launched a European section. Jolly good, you might think; it’s good for UK readers to be informed of events on the continent. But I’ve been planning to launch a European news blog of my own! Really, I am. Bought the domain name, started the web design and everything. And now I’ve been beaten to the punch by a national newspaper, which has infinitely more resources at its disposal than my hapless self. After the initial thought that I should just pack up and go home because the big boys are on the pitch now, things actually aren’t as bad as I initially feared.
First, there’s a question of specialism. From what I can see, the Guardian are going to be focusing on just a few European countries. That’s fine for a newspaper, and they have the luxury (and budget) to take an in-depth look at those nations. I was planning on being more of a generalist anyway, and as I don’t have to conform to the strictures that govern a serious newspaper, in addition to “hard” news, I can also take a more irreverent tone in my reporting.
Next there is a question of reach. I could never hope to reach the kind of audience that the Guardian enjoys; in fact, I think my webhosts would complain if I did! But of those people who I will reach, I already know that most of them will be engaged with the subjects that I’ll be covering. How? Well, when I first got the idea for a European news blog, I started a Twitter account that is dedicated to just that. From fellow travellers, other bloggers in the same niche and professionals working in European politics, I now have over 1,000 followers. So when it comes to publicising my blog when it (eventually) launches, I have a ready-made audience who have already made their interest known. Do they all read the Guardian? Probably not. Do they read my tweets? Well, I hope so!
Finally, there is the question of engagement. For all its pageviews, the Guardian will only be able to do so much when it comes to interacting with their readers. Not every news article has commenting enable, and because of the sheer numbers on those articles that are open to reader comments, it’s very difficult for authors to interact with their audience or to carry on a conversation. By contrast, my blog will be much smaller, with a possibly more engaged audience. As such, I’ll have more freedom to carry on conversations with my readers, in a way that most large media corporations are unable to.
What does this all mean for smaller businesses? Essentially, even if you find yourself in the same situation as I did on Sunday evening, faced with a much larger and more powerful rival, all is not lost. Find out what the competition is not doing and rejig your business plan to do that instead. Remember that you can reach people that they cannot, and may never be able to. And don’t forget: the best things come in small packages. Your outfit may be tiny, but that doesn’t mean it can’t grow from what seems like a pathetically small base when you’re starting out. Mighty oaks from acorns and all that.
So I’m not giving up. My beloved Project X, which I have been working on for longer than is decent, will one day see the light of day. And I am determined to nourish and give it the care and attention it deserves, dedicated newspaper sections be damned. Am I likely to surpass the Guardian’s offering? Not in a month of Sundays. But will I be doing my own small part in a field that I think is important? Oh, hell yes!
[Image by nick@]