Online newspaper: How to start a news blog in Kenya

Breaking news, general news updates and blogging on things going on in and outside Kenya is a huge business.

Every single day, there are many Kenyans and non-Kenyans (interested in what’s happening and affecting Kenya and it’s people) who rely on local TV stations, FM radio stations, daily newspapers, weeklies and magazines to stay informed.

Providing news updates to internet users in Kenya

And then of course there are many popular news websites and blogs in the country that are frequently updated and can be accessed on the go (anywhere) as long as one has internet access.

More and more Kenyans are buying smartphones, tablets and laptop computers.

And the number of internet users in the country is ever on the increase – with more people accessing the internet via their mobile phones compared to desktop computers.

Starting your news blog in Kenya (what you need to get started)

Meaning there is a lot of people (market) interested in news updates.

Your work then is to register a domain name, pay for web hosting, install WordPress self-hosted version and create a news blog to satisfy this growing appetite for digital content.

You can build a general-type news blog or publish updates on a narrower more niche topic – like sports (or one specific kind of sports), county news from all 47 counties (or just one county), tech, banking and financing, private sector, lifestyle, public sector, energy, diaspora news, entertainment (showbiz), agriculture, town or city-specific news blog among many others.

To help you decide on which route to take (general vs. niche topics) make sure to have a well-grounded reason on why you are starting a blog in the first place.

Read this article in its entirety for inspiration – for the ideas you will get after reading it will help you launch your blog with a strong foundation.

If you have an interest in what’s going in this country yourself and you can write and provide frequent updates (or hire writers to help you create content), have internet access and know a thing or two about promoting content on the internet then you are set and ready.

A few things to do when starting the blog and building it into an established media company in Kenya

1. Decide if you want your news blog to cover specific issues in Kenya or be broad in the scope of your coverage

Why? There are many competitors already – from websites and blogs that get millions of unique visitors and pageviews each month to those that get a few thousand visits each month.

The decision on what you specifically want to cover can help you differentiate yourself from the many Kenyan news blogs and websites that have already been launched by companies (some listed in the Nairobi Securities Exchange – NSE – like Standard Media Group and Nation Media Group), individual bloggers and teams of writers.

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Readers have many options. Being different and offering fresh updates often therefore are some of the best ways you can differentiate yourself from the onset and quickly grow your blog traffic – number of repeat visits and blog revenue (from individuals, organizations, companies, and businesses that pay to advertise on your blog – via banners, Google AdSense, affiliate programs, sponsored posts etc.)

2. Research how other news blogs in Kenya gather, write and publish new posts

Do they just publish commentaries on current issues? How about word count – are the length of their blog posts just a few hundred words each with one or two images?

Do they provide original reporting to their readers – even if that means gathering updates by interviewing persons of interest to their audience via email or in person?

Why do they do it the way they are doing it? Is it working? And more importantly – how can you add your personal spin and do things better yet not deviate from the successful formula / blueprint they are already using?

You want to ask yourself all these questions, so that when you launch your blog, you can rely on testing things that you already know resonate with Kenyans who read, listen to or watch news online.

If other blogs are writing news commentaries and embedding relevant YouTube videos in the content area, it must be working.

All you have to do then (after doing your research) is to test things to see what works and what doesn’t then make the necessary changes.

3. Decide if you are going to be the only person writing for your news blog or if you are going to hire some Kenyan freelancers to help

Blogging takes a lot of hard work – and requires tremendous amounts of energy. Something you may hope your readers will understand – and maybe sympathize.

But you know better. They are after what they want – which is news – and not the challenges you are facing to bring them the updates.

Your readers will expect more updates from you every time they come to your blog.

That means you have to publish at least one or two updates every day. And do it early enough (and in a thorough way) before other blogs publish articles on the same topics.

If you don’t have the time to blog daily your options of running a successful news blog in Kenya become pretty slim – unless you get the time (which you can) or hire a team (of writers, virtual assistants, reporters, journalists and experts in various fields) to help you stay consistent in providing fresh updates to your readers.

You can also do both if you want to – essentially creating a team that helps you run your blog. At least this is the trend I see with some popular news blogs in Kenya that often publish 5 to 25, and sometimes even thirty articles, per day all year round.

4. Decide if your news blog is going to accept content contribution from others

You should decide early if you want to allow guest post contributions (citizen journalism) from others or not.

Whatever decision you make though realize that allowing people to submit tips and news reports via your blog can result in some great gems that you can spruce up and publish on your blog as fresh articles for your readers.

When you open your blog to accept contributions you will also have a keen eye that can quickly judge what you receive in your inbox.

And as an editor, you will learn how to be as quick and ready to say no just as easily as you say yes.

You won’t have to publish everything you receive. Why? Because it is all about giving your readers what they want – something some of your contributors will refuse to understand.

Some, wanting to write for your site, will see your blog as a way to promote themselves – and whatever agenda they have in mind which could be in opposition with the one or two reasons why you started your blog in the first place.

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5. Decide on the main sources you will use to inspire the news you publish on your blog

In the beginning you will be watching news on TV (and clips on YouTube), curating images on other websites like Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook and WhatsApp, checking your Twitter and Facebook updates and feeds, reading newspapers (local dailies), going through your Google News or feed reader, checking trends on Google Trends, Twitter, forums and Facebook and checking what other established news sites in Kenya publish.

As your site grows and you get more funds to run your daily operations, you will dedicate more funds to hire employees to help with original reporting – boosting the credibility and reputation of your blog (online newspaper) even further.

6. Decide, quickly, on a domain name for your news blog and register it then get web hosting and start publishing

Why am I repeating this? Because it is easy to waste a lot of time just picking a domain name, paying for web hosting, installing WordPress script (plugins and themes) and then starting to publish new articles right way.

Maybe it’s because of procrastination. Or excitement. Or over-planning. Or spending a lot of time watching TV – thinking the more time you spend watching news the better your commentaries will become – not realizing that there must be a balance – and that articles (which in the news business can have a short shelf-life) don’t write themselves.

So, just get the step of setting up your blog over with and then start publishing new articles of events that are happening in Kenya today to your blog and your social media accounts.

If you need a quick guide on all this, check this blogging ebook (online course) and then get in touch if you want it.

7. Encourage sharing of news posts you publish

How? You can start by adding sharing buttons on your blog posts and images to make it easier for your blog visitors to share your articles with their families and circle of friends on various popular social networking sites and messaging apps.

Also add as many images in your articles as you possibly can – and make it easy for your readers to share them – and links to your posts – by adding sharing buttons on your images (e.g. on image hover or when they press and hold using free WordPress plugins like Sumo).

Also you can take advantage of paid advertising to get your initial readers to help you promote the stories and updates you publish on your blog.

With your KCB Pepea MasterCard debit card you can pay for ads on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google Adwords, Instagram, Linkedin – and even forums, websites and blogs run by other Kenyans selling advertising space – to promote your articles.

For example, with Facebook advertising, you can drive up to 1,000 unique visitors from Facebook to your news blog each day (with clicks to website being your objective when setting up your ad campaign on FB) with a budget of less than Kenya Shillings 2,500 (that is 30,000 unique visitors a month in blog traffic just from one single source / referrer like Facebook, for 75,000 Kenyan Shillings).

And you can recoup some of that money by building an email list (where you can later promote products and services sold by Kenyan companies in various online shopping websites – as an affiliate), showing ads from ad networks like AdSense, selling your own services or products or getting sponsors to fund a percentage of your operations (in return for promoting their business, services and products on your blog).

8. Include interviews – and publish lots of them if you can

When your news blog is doing well, in month one or a few months after launching it and receiving daily traffic in the range of a few hundreds to thousands of unique visitors, many Kenyans you email for an interview will likely say yes – and follow through in their promise to answer your questions.

Not all of them, but many.

The good thing about interviews, which you can do via email, chat, in person or Skype, is that they present readers with new insights and often details rarely found on other sites.

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If the answers come from an authority, expert or a person celebrated by many Kenyans, chances are high that publishing such interviews will result in good traffic – and loyal readers – if you keep doing these quality interviews often.

9. Post news frequently to your blog

Publish new articles every day.

Readers will want something new from you – original reporting, your perspective on current affairs, the latest in Kenya’s politics, innovations in Kenya, consumer issues, developments (both at national and county level) and answers to the top concerns of Kenyans.

There is plenty to cover.

So, keep your readers updated with fresh content.

10. Check incoming searches and write more posts around them

Using your analytics tool – like Jetpack site stats or Google Analytics, you will see some of the queries people type in search engines before they land on your blog.

If they are searches relevant to what your site is about but happen to be inadequately covered write articles around such topics and publish them on your blog.

You can also use the data you get from your incoming searches log to update already published news articles to make them more detailed and in-depth.

Incoming searches are a sort of feedback from your readers.

Use the feedback well – and publish more blog posts to solicit even more feedback from readers which you can use to improve your blog.

11. Submit your blog to BAKE – Bloggers Association of Kenya – website

Why? So that whenever you publish an article on your blog, a link to it will be automatically created on BAKE website (which some people use to find new blogs in Kenya or to keep up with fresh updates from their favourite Kenyan bloggers) with a title, a short intro and a link back to your post for those who want to read more.

This is one way for others to discover your blog.

It is also a good way to network with other Kenyan bloggers – who often themselves check the updates from the many blogs submitted to BAKE by members (last I checked, you can easily pay for your BAKE membership fee via M-PESA).

In conclusion

If you want to start a successful news blog in Kenya what is covered above is what you need to pay attention to.

This article has not gone into how to buy web hosting, how to choose a domain name (and extension), things to consider before paying for web hosting in Kenya, how to access cPanel, how to increase your blog traffic, how to install a blogging CMS (content management system) like WordPress (self-hosted), how to do keyword research, how to install a theme, how to choose and install some of the best free WordPress plugins and configure everything.

Why? Because some of these topics have already been covered in various articles, ebooks and online courses found on Prifad.com.

If you are interested in starting your news blog but need help with some of the things covered in this article, you can get in touch with me via email here to request help – if you want to take advantage of any of Prifad.com freelance services.

If you have a question related to anything discussed in this article that is better suited as a comment instead of an email, the comments section is all yours.

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