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Published On: Thu, Mar 15th, 2018

Spreading the News: How News Sites Create Passive Income

There are a ton of fake news sites out there, and the media highlighted many of them in the previous election. With another midterm election looming, and political tensions at perhaps an all-time high, news sites are popping up again, but many have trouble understanding why.

The truth of the matter is this. Most of the time, those news sites were not created because of a specific political agenda the owner had in mind, a message they were trying to spread to the nation. Some attempted to sensationalize real news, akin to supermarket tabloids whose headlines scream of alien babies and celebrity breakups.

Others, like the so-called Denver Guardian that broke the news story about the Hillary camp killing an FBI agent to cover up misdeeds, told outright blatant lies, headlines that were as fake as the newspaper names themselves. Why did they do this? Simple. They wanted website traffic. We traffic equals advertisers, and advertisers equal money.

photo/ Gerd Altmann via pixabay

Here’s how it works, and what to watch out for from various news sites.

Getting Started

Of course, the first step is to find a domain name, register it, get good hosting, preferably a dedicated server to handle all that traffic that will surely come once things get rolling, and then begin to populate the site with legitimate news stories.

The site does not have to employ reporters. Instead they can simply use scraping tools to gather stories or story summaries from other news sites. To get a news site started, only one to two people are needed to scour the web for the most sensational stories they can find. Importing and posting them is simply a matter of a few clicks.

Building the Traffic

There are a few keys to building news site traffic. Really they boil down to a few simple ideas. The first is simply to be fast. If a story breaks on another site, being the first site to scrape that article and repost it means a high Google ranking, which means more visitors.

The second of course is brilliant keywording and SEO strategy. The more relevant keywords a story hits on, the bigger the flow of resulting traffic. The key to this is often social listening. What keywords are people using on social media related to this story? Using those in meta data, text, and headings and titles almost guarantees a great position in search engines.

The third is social media. Boosting posts, especially early on, and getting them in front of as many people as possible is key. Several viral posts of the last election cycle started on Facebook, Twitter, or both, and spread from there like wildfire.

Finally, traffic also comes from polarizing posts. No matter which side of a political argument or which way a news story is slanted, it will get traffic from both sides. Opponents will read it and post negative commentary. Advocates will resonate with and share the posts. Either way the final result is exactly what the creator is going for. More traffic.

Hire Some Writers

Once there is traffic pouring in from curated content and original opinions, the site begins to hire writers. Notice that they are not hiring journalists necessarily, although some do. For the most part these sites are just looking for someone with two characteristics: an ability to write well, and a strong social following. Why do these two things matter the most?

While writing does not have to be perfect, to satisfy readers it needs to be competent. Also, the writer needs to be fast. Capitalizing on a breaking story or breaking a “creatively enhanced” one means that speed matters. The faster the story gets out there, and the further it goes, the more of that valuable traffic it will bring.

This is where the writer’s strong social following comes in. Simply by sharing the post with their network, the writer can spark a post to go viral, especially if that audience shares the story in the right places. Do note though that often these writer names are pseudonyms. The writer does not always want their true identity associated with the stories they create or the site itself. For personal security reasons, that is not always desirable.

These writers usually create the “money content.” These are the stories that bring in thousands of visitors on their own. The FBI agent assassination is just one from the previous election cycle. That one story was shared over a million times on Facebook and throughout social media.

Show Me the Money

The reason for all of the above is one simple thing: traffic means money. A news site can provide a ton of passive income for the owner and even for the writers, depending on how they are paid. Such big traffic numbers come with advertisers who will pay big bucks for their products to be seen by all of those eyes.

While Google pulled its AdSense from some sites found to be creating “fake news” other advertisers were lined up behind them to take their ad space. Site owners did not miss a beat.

The key to the whole system is that much of the income is passive once the site is rolling. There is very little, other than some writing and posting the stories others create, to keeping it running, and the ad dollars are phenomenal.

How much money are we talking? NPR caught up with one of the site owners last year, and it was found that many of them make between $10,000 and $30,000 a month.

Not all news sites are into “fake news” and even legitimate ones can be a great source of passive income, even if the owner is just scraping stories and summaries from major news sources. It isn’t necessary for the fiction or sensationalization of news to be involved, but it does create traffic and revenue.

Nearly anyone can create and maintain one of these sites, and even doing so with integrity can be a great source of income. The steps above are a look at how it all works, and why your favorite news site might seem a little slanted. For many, it’s all about the money.

Author: Clarissa Clouette

photo/ Gerd Altmann via pixabay

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  2. Jina says:

    It’s nice article, lots of learning point you mentioned that is helpful to understand better. thanks for sharing helpful blog post.

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