When I was first approached to give a talk about my experiences within the NationStates’ media landscape, I knew I wanted to share something practical while also trying my best to not stifle anyone’s creativity. I promise nothing profound, and of course there is always room for innovation, but my intent in this speech is to provide a catalyst for self-reflection that is applicable to both new and established NS journalists and brands. Regardless of your current involvement in NS media, I hope my unique insight will keep you enthralled. Embarking on this impossible quest, I will be sharing a few different strategies I’ve seen or have helped implement as part of my ceaseless campaign to help foster a stronger and more diverse media landscape across NationStates.
Why NS Journalism?
Before undertaking any written task, NS journalism included, I believe it is important to consider your audience and intent. This will keep you determined to see it through. There’s no harm in an audience simply starting with yourself, or with an intent as simple as offering an accurate recount of some piece of our history, but pondering on these questions will help sharpen your resolve and can even help shape your work for the better. From opinion pieces to interviews, consider the narrative and the coherence of any arguments being made. Do not rely on anything being too straightforward or already widely understood; you owe it to yourself to make your work stand on its own two feet. Quality journalism remains as easily read as time passes, and should strive to withstand the test of time. Give your work justice and your efforts will be rewarded. On that note, be sure to proofread your work. Readability elevates great ideas, and will prove the deciding factor in what keeps any newcomers or players unfamiliar with your topic engaged. This is necessary if you want to be considered the foremost source in your chosen topic - of which I can imagine is especially sought after by you history buffs out there. Ideally you’d have someone to turn to who isn’t that knowledgeable on your subject matter and can still offer you feedback, or at least share what they got from your work. Achieving all these things consistently will help you maintain a wider appeal, and, in doing so, may even make your passions more widely appreciated.
Harnessing the Power of Collaboration
On finding someone who can offer you feedback, or better yet even provide recommended edits, working with or establishing a media team can complement your work alongside having the added benefit of providing your readers with broader and more regular content with greater ease if well managed. Even if your identity is as a lone wolf in the wondrous world of NS journalism, partnering with others can provide some of the more immediate back-end benefits. The opportunity to bounce around ideas with a peer who shares your passion for journalism and be enlightened on the parts of this enduring and, believe it or not, ever-growing and diversifying community that elude you will help keep you engaged as a writer and journalist, and has certainly helped me. Only a unique few can carry on without this type of support, and I do not consider myself among them - no shame in that!
Building a Sustainable Brand
If you’re looking to build a team that can sustain a media brand, I suggest affiliating or working alongside a region, or at least considering becoming a region in your own right. This may at first appear counterintuitive, as a regional government may demand some creative control or express concerns along the lines of foreign relations, but it has merit as a value-adding project for the region, providing citizens with a new way to get involved while also supporting you with a new source for journalists and editors. This is not to say that all regions would be thrilled by the idea, but there are certainly some. Start the conversation in a region that already focusses on elements that align with your interests so that their expertise can complement your media brand’s content. If you find yourself going down this approach, the next matter for you to ponder is how you will try to keep your writers and editors productive. Experienced and reputable contributors elevate your brand, so acknowledging the commitment of your staff is worthwhile. While Media Officer of The Rejected Times in 2018, I revamped the awards and ranking system to help better recognise the hard work of each staff member, reaffirming annual awards and reworking ranks from Intern all the way up to Maestro. I believe a similar system could and should be established across all media brands, providing new contributors with something to aspire to, framed as a new part of our game to play.
Elevating your Brand
So you’ve considered your brand’s purpose and reflected on its internal sustainability, but, regardless of how large or ambitious your NS media vision, you should always be challenging yourself to find the next competitive edge. This will be limited to your understanding of your audience, which will guide your appreciation for your product’s appeal and how it can be innovated to better reach people receptive to your content. First consider what your media brand features: opinions, news, comedic relief, or all of the above? Now consider which form best suits your content (and team): will you be producing long newspaper articles on the forum, short summaries put into dispatches, or externally-hosted podcasts? Consider the strengths and weaknesses of your brand. A narrow approach with a smaller team might have an easier time at getting its target audience to seek it out for its specialised content, which will enable the brand to better utilise externally-hosted options. Thus, its content can appear in a more professional format than a dispatch or forum post by virtue of how their target audience is more willing to follow a redirect or wait for an audio or video file to buffer. Conversely, a wider approach with a larger team might allow the brand to become a hub of a broad range of topics. Brand loyalty will be harder to establish but can provide them with a monopoly over time. They will need to be mindful that using a form that will prove easy to engage with will help them stay relevant for longer. As for the content itself, there are plenty of NS topics that your team can expand into or even start new segments and coverage on. For example, regular podcast commentary could be established for gameplay (raiding and defending), news, minigames, regional politics, interregional news, events, and much more!
Marketing your Brand
Either way, your brand’s reach can always be enhanced. I strongly recommend constantly investigating new ways to advertise your brand, such as utilising services like those of The NewsStand or even by creating your own subscription model. I will speak on the latter, as I am experienced in maintaining the subscription model of The Rejected Times as well as trialing a similar model for the East Pacific News Service. Subscriptions can secure a returning audience by either telegramming new releases to nations directly or tagging subscribed nations at the bottom of new releases accompanied by thanking their support. I recommend the second option as it makes the subscription model more visible as well. Subscriptions can be managed through external platforms or via telegrams through either a new nation taking the name of your media brand or your current head editor’s nation. Be sure to explain how to subscribe in your publications, treating the model as a mailing service, but also include ways to unsubscribe as well. A suitable nation to telegram can also help enable greater interaction from readers, yet this can also be accommodated for within forums and comment sections. That being said, prioritising greater interaction may, in turn, make your readers more receptive towards helping you advertise your media brand, and they may even be more willing to try out contributing as a guest writer or interviewee, which could be thanks to you putting the effort into cultivating brand loyalty.
Be Bold & Enjoy your Work
From establishing your motivations to widening your appeal, this insight into NS’ media landscape has provided an opportunity to reflect on successful strategies at building a strong media brand. For those interested in taking a foray into this part of the game, you too can find a niche you would like to service as a NS journalist. My final piece of advice is to not be afraid to use your platform and voice to be passionate. Any argument you make, no matter how tame, will always be the subject of scrutiny. Argue for what you believe in, as—if you’re marketing your brand well—you will be remembered by what you have said.