How to create thematic media from scratch and without a budget

About a year ago, a small company of like-minded people decided to diversify their professional activities and begin practically out of the blue experiment to create from scratch and without a budget a small thematic media.

The ranks of like-minded people consisted of the editor-in-chief of a regional online magazine, his technical assistant, the head of a regional web development studio, and a PR man in the capital. We were all busy in our main projects and companies, but really wanted to: a) try to work together; b) make a new project.

Both of these desires allowed us to close our eyes to the initial minuses - the lack of time, budget and the complete adventurism of the whole undertaking.

What to do?

We were all interested in making a content project: one way or another, two of the team have always dealt with content, and two more fully understood what it is good for.

The question was in choosing the direction - what kind of content. After all, projects that are not made to order should, at a minimum, bring pleasure to the production process.

In addition to industry topics such as the Internet, advertising, etc., of course, they were food and travel (it is asked, but who is not interested in this?).

After dropping out, the theme of travel survived, as a potentially trending one in the long run.

  • Imagine in October 2013 that the whole next year the Russian tourism market and the theme of outbound tourism will fall, at that time we certainly could not ...

Having stopped on travels, they began to choose a narrow subject - to make a collection "about tourism in general" in our case would be pointless.

It was possible to go along the path of geographic reference, it could be thematic, for example, all about the same food. They even threw a bunch of options for the name of the project, such as "Elk and Salmon", "Deer and Dumpling", "Ivan Lasagna", "Barsik and Belyash", etc. But being honest people, we decided to postpone food for the future - writing about food in travels is impossible, therefore, it would immediately have to do a lot of work with the involved authors.

Geography remained. Our hearts have long been given to Europe, as a container of many wonderful things - from architectural and cultural to gastronomic and beer. The question was which country should be our focus.

Since half of our team over the past 10 years has been engaged in regional media, it was in this direction that we looked. For the "site for tourists" is a good genre, but has its own specifics. In short - the content for it must either be collected on the spot, or endlessly rewrite existing content. It was boring to us. So we started looking for a news niche.

And if there are a lot of sites for tourists, then news sites about countries in Russian exist much less, if not absolutely not. It is understandable - monetization is problematic, the flow of readers will be less. This is on the one hand. On the other hand, mass media in the classical sense is potentially a much longer-lasting, diverse and interesting story than just a thematic site.

After going through all the countries, we settled on Slovakia. Why she? The objective here overlapped with the subjective.

a) Subjective - a couple of years ago the two of us visited Slovakia and were completely delighted with the country. Here they are very friendly towards the Russian-speaking audience, they are interested in it and are very open for cooperation with it. Accordingly, it also makes sense to invest here. And any potential investor needs to get enough information about the country. This is an opportunity for us to get a high-quality and loyal audience that will come for news.

  • By the way, Slovakia is now one of the most loyal legislation in Europe in relation to business - it is easy to open enterprises there, which is demonstrated by the latest Doing Business rating. And if you create jobs in the country, everyone will love you very much - from the cook to the state. Of course, there are some disadvantages that seem to be not the most efficient public sector, which was recently announced by the OECD, however, they also say that Slovakia has gone further than other EU countries from the financial crisis of 2008. And the local auto industry in 2016 will start produce Porsche Cayenne and Bentley crossovers.

b) Objective. In Russian, there is practically no news about Slovakia (and not only news). Now all the extradition is clogged with Ukraine and gas reverse, before that - with hockey. More or less you can find information on their many balneological and ski resorts - but not in the news. In general, all this is extremely small. Therefore, for quite a long time, the project can work on news translations - company press releases, information from all kinds of authorities, local and non-local media. All this is “feed” content from which you can start, delve into the information flow, understand what and how, gradually starting to supplement the news with articles, interviews, reviews and other materials.

c) Slovakia is much less popular than the Czech Republic (and the topic of regional promotion was also historically very interesting to us, since we all did a lot in this direction in our region). It is confused with Slovenia (which is also the fault of the Slovak version of the name of the country - Slovensko) But this is the case when doing something from scratch is very curious. At the same time, in the Russian-speaking field there are not only residents of Russia, but also Belarus and Ukraine, who, due to their location, know more about Slovakia and also fall into the list of potential consumers of information.

d) The language is so close that even without knowing it, you can read and translate the original sources. Plus use English versions of this or that information.

d) The circle of topics. On the one hand, in Slovakia there is a complete set of all kinds of European beauties such as castles, on the other hand, it is not tied to tourism like, for example, some Montenegro, where everything revolves around the sea, and accordingly, the news flow will also be about real estate, resorts, etc. In Slovakia there is a powerful auto industry, steel industry, IT, represented by such a giant as ESET, cultural life and so on.

There were also, apparently, various factors, but listing them all would be rather pointless - the path that we followed was broadly understood.

Practical implementation

In order for everything to turn from words to action, a plan was developed that included several important points.

Point one: understand if we can get some support from the Slovak side. For this, our Moscow member of the team before the New Year went to a meeting at the Slovak Embassy in Russia. There we identified the existence of our project team, talked about what we plan to do and showed some analytics regarding the interest in Slovakia on the Russian-speaking Internet. Then there were a couple of spring meetings, during which we received a certain amount of information for reflection and a promise to arrange for us a press tour in Slovakia in September 2014.

After such an inspiring start, in the spring we started the development itself.

Determining the name, they decided to immediately build themselves off from the tour sites, emphasize the informational orientation and subconscious recognition. From here - The Slovakia Times.

Actually, the name itself influenced other things, for example, identity - for again, to maintain the traditional spirit, they chose the fracture:


  • In parallel, by the way, they learned that the “Gothic font” (as they like to call the frac- ture), traditionally associated with the 3rd Reich, was banned in Nazi Germany in 1941.

The option that exists now is not final - over time we will redraw it manually.

Site A
site, to a first approximation, was made in about three months, trying to take into account all the things that you had experienced in your life.

We are certainly very lucky with a highly professional team of like-minded people who worked with us on the project. In addition to the four of us, two very talented designers with different competencies and an excellent layout designer were directly involved in the development.

Initially focused on adaptive design, I wanted it to turn out quite easily and conveniently. But at the same time, it had a smack of conservatism.

We had to choose between two strategies for a long time: either a downloadable tape with large illustrated announcements in the spirit of Look At Me, or a more newspaper fine mesh like The New York Times. In the end, the first option won. I also wanted to emphasize the regional specifics, so I chose the tinted monochrome panorama of Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia, as the background. Appearing in the first screen, then the background gradually disappears.

The second thing that we began to discuss during the work on the site, and which almost became another parallel project of ours, was the creation of our web editor. Working a lot with content, we have long been thinking about a certain designer that would make it easier for editors to make complicated layout of articles when they contain quotes, frames, comments, sliders and other stuffing. Look At Me does something similar for itself in its Article editor , but unfortunately they do not sell it yet.

After various estimates - is there any point in simultaneously pouring one story into another, much more costly and not obvious - we have postponed the web-editor project for now.

To automate the work managed to do a little blood. Our technical director found a solution: it turned out that in the editor (CKEditor) there was a regular ability to write plug-ins for inserting ready-made blocks into the page. We took advantage of it, having prepared typical “frames” for different occasions.

We then implemented a similar thing on another project - it turned out to be very convenient.

Of course, we have a list of what will be further developed - opportunities that are very important for us in the format of special projects, long-reads, etc. And I still want to return to the topic of a specialized web editor. Because it seems to us that for content providers such tools will become more and more popular, the only question is competent sales and initial - albeit small, but ... - investments in development.

Meanwhile, in July, the site started to a first approximation.

Determining what information should be on the resource, we proceeded from several things.

First: we abandoned the political theme and incidents. The publication is focused on business and tourism topics. Strictly speaking, this is the information that you would like to know about the country if you plan to go there to relax, get treatment, study, work, do business, want to invest a certain amount of money in an enterprise, or want to understand who you can collaborate with and how. From here is a stream of news on business, investment, IT, real estate, attractions, food, cities, etc.

What was not originally planned, and what they still decided to do after some deliberation, is the English version. Since in English, information projects about Slovakia were also once or twice miscalculated - The Slovak Spectator,, that's all. The rest either died, or is a kind of thematic subsection on the “about everything” project. Therefore, they decided that having the English version in the future is also not bad.

I must say, the Slovak media have some distinctive feature. Some of their materials, the same The Slovak Spectator is hidden behind the paywall. Because it was Slovakia that turned out to be the birthplace of elephants, namely the company Piano, which is now actively promoting the topic of paid subscription on the world wide Internet.

  • Looking ahead, I’ll say that we visited Piano, as well as visiting ESET, in September, and we will write about this very soon both here and at The Slovakia Times.


Accordingly, this topic further limits the amount of available material about Slovakia on the English-language web. On the one hand, subscribers accustomed to pay are great, and if we ever make the Slovak version of the project, we will definitely try the paywall. But with regard to English-language materials, the lack of a closed part with us is still rather a plus, in terms of obtaining additional. traffic.

As for the content in principle, here we are now solving several growth problems.

The first problem is that even finding news content takes a lot of time. These are two non-native languages ​​- Slovak and English, which operate longer, especially for a journalist who is tightly attached to the Russian language and is not friendly with English. Nevertheless, thanks to the online translators, the process is underway, plus the other day we plan to start learning Slovak with a teacher.

There are technical issues, such as monitoring Google News is not always effective in a situation where Google News Slovakia is absent in nature, and the rest of the regional issue is very specific (all the same distortions in gas, in hockey, then meaningless references to list transfers of European countries). It takes time to get a pool of subscriptions to news sources like organizations, institutions, companies and other newsmakers.

Well, when you want to create unique content, create it remotely and with native speakers of another language, of course, is more difficult than going out onto the streets of your city. It saves that in a situation where the country simply does not have a formed information flow, you can start on press releases, news, and translations.


The press tour promised to us in the spring was postponed to the spring of 2015, however, we decided to go to Slovakia ourselves - to smell the air, collect some content for gradual processing and calculation, and make some acquaintances. This we did in September 2014:


We were convinced that we are moving in the right direction and what we are doing, but at the same time, the financial prospects of the project still remain vague. We have some plans in this regard, which we would like to voice upon the fact - when it will succeed / fail.

The tasks in the near future - to increase the number of materials, attendance, recognition - in general, a lot of routine long-playing work, which will lay a solid foundation for this whole structure. The next moment - after some hesitation, we decided to register the media, which solves the issue of the status of representatives of the publication. Well, in our experience - any good project of such a plan is a living organism, into which you need to pour strength, watch for returns and adjust the course / form / content depending on the situation.

About money and prospects distant
Since these questions will still be asked one way or another.

What is the project done for? At the personal funds of participants, including their personal time. Due to the fact that a lot of free finance cannot be allocated, forces are allocated. There are not many of them, and the project is moving quite slowly.

On the other hand, we don’t have a task to bring “somewhere in three months”, we know that organic growth is a slow thing, and here we need to “cut and water”. Faster is possible if an investor appears.

Will an investor appear? We think not, at least not yet. The project is quite local, with an audience of tens of thousands at best. Nevertheless, as an advertising platform with a narrow focus, it is likely to take place - in terms of the same b2b services.

In this capacity, in the future, it can be sold to someone who already owns media projects and wants to expand his package. Another option for the development of events is the network development of the project. That is, the creation of local sites in other European countries. But both of these options will depend heavily on geopolitical and economic situations.

What are we doing this project for?
Starting with the desire to “work together,” the project showed us exactly what we want to do in the future, and where to develop. This direction is the creation of custom content projects or the creation of projects for sale, or complex projects at the intersection of the web, content, PR and marketing. Now we are trying options for interaction, different tools, different platforms, gaining experience in collaboration and we are considering options for turning all this into a design office.

Now, a year after the start of the movements and summing up the peculiar results, we decided to talk about the project here. Because in spite of all the media binding, we are probably more of an IT team. And the opinion of colleagues in the workshop is important, interesting and very in demand for us.

There are a lot of all sorts of things that cannot be shoved into one text, and of course, a lot of any near-project thoughts and estimates are left out of the picture. Therefore, if this post seems interesting to you - write in the comments about what else you would like to know.

Also popular now: