Pulling Off Your Big Project In a Small(er) Newsroom

Sometimes coming back with ideas from ONA are too big for small newsrooms. This session went over ways to allow smaller newsroom to adapt and use those ideas. #smallnewsroom

What’s the big idea anyway? Know what you want to do. It may require whittling down from a general concept.

Design your own pitch worksheet:

  1. What’s the problem we’re trying to solve for readers?
  2. What the idea that you have to solve it? What will we give readers?
  3. Are we in a unique position to produce this project or product? If so, how can we leverage that unique value?
  4. Who needs to see this project or product? Who is your audience(s)?
  5. How will you get this project or product to them?
  6. What are the success metrics? Be specific, realistic, measurable. Think of other stories in the past and use them as benchmarks. Think about impact as well — what were the actions that were taken after the story came up — what decisions could we influence?
  7. What’s the next better version of this product? Or what is the follow up to this project?

Answering these questions early on can influence how you tell your story and how you do your project.

Be prepared when talking about why you are in a unique position to produce the project.

So much of being able to pull off the project is internal politics — getting everyone invested in the same idea.


  • Functional: How will you know it worked?
  • Reach: How will you know it got the attention/buzz/clicks desired?
  • Brand building/Marketing: How can it have an impact for on future endeavors?

Give the person you’re pitching to the vision of the project.

Connect revenue to your project — we used to have strict separation between editorial side and advertising side. Set up some targets, identify sponsors, make a plan to pull it off. It’s one of the most important parts of getting green light on project.

Abandon the idea that you can use in house talent to do the development.

Identify the talent you don’t have but need:

  • Universities
  • General Assembly — coding school — find recent grads.
  • Co-working spaces
  • Development incubators

Use a project management tool to manage features/elements:

Some tools include BaseCamp, Trello, SmartSheet, or just a simple Google spreadsheet.

Break down story elements and identify who is responsible for each one. Track all the different elements and moving parts. Use the spreadsheet to layout editing/publishing schedule.

Write an internal FAQ:


  • Write it with the headline in mind: “[Project name] for dummies”
  • Include timelines and who’s responsible for what
  • Answer some “what if” questions
  • Include questions you don’t know the answers to
  • Clarify what’s internal and what’s external

Important that people know how to talk about this project externally.

Make sure you prioritize:

Some questions to help you prioritize:

What is will provide the maximum reader value?

  1. What is the effort required vs. reader value?
  2. Are there any dependencies on other features we’ve already prioritized?
  3. Can we meet this goal in another way? If so, can this be a long goal?

Make time for a project debrief:

Examples of projects:

2012 Election idea — $1,500 on the developer — worked with him on nights and weekends. Brought in sponsors for about $3,000. Revamped in 2014.


User could select races that they wanted to watch/follow.

At election night parties, product was being used.

Results updated every 5 seconds. Beat the competition on updates.

Built in a sharing tool — post to Twitter/Facebook the exact results for that race — didn’t work on election night. Be able to turn features off if you can fix them on the fly. Be honest about what worked and what didn’t and improve as you go.

Be honest about pitfalls, don’t promise the moon.

“In order to do something new, you have to stop doing something else.” — Anika Anand

Keep scope in mind and make adjustments when needed.

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