Debrief: The Space Resource
In late November of 2018 I started a challenge of launching 12 startups in 12 months. I am doing this to get faster at turning ideas into working applications. A month after I start each project I will write a debrief describing how it went. Last month I launched my second startup for this challenge, The Space Resource, which is an independent news website dedicated to sharing news, education, and discussion about utilizing resources in space. This is what happened:
This project is likely the least technical one I'll do for this challenge. Content is king for this project. The technology just needs to provide a simple interface for publishing content. I build the site in SquareSpace, using the blog posts to store each news article. This allowed very quick development time because SquareSpace has templates purposely built for blogging.
SquareSpace's pricing encourages me to stick with them for a while, since their basic plan allows for unlimited blog posts. I may upgrade later if a web store is needed.
I built this project with Adam Hugo, a classmate from my Masters program and one of the cofounders from my other startup, grokSpace. We decided to build up two weeks worth of content before publicly announcing the site. We did this for a few reasons:
- We wanted a low stress environment for starting out and getting used to the platform.
- We wanted to give new visitors the impression that this site was established.
- We wanted to encourage visitors to view prior articles, increasing their time on the site.
- I wanted to allow time for search engine crawlers to find the site.
For launching the site, we went to Twitter to make our presence known to the space resources community. We identified the space resources community to be niche and highly concentrated within a few areas, including Twitter.
Our content strategy is to develop content that is highly targeted towards engineers and scientists within the space resources community. We found existing space news sites to be too broad for this community, and are finding success in covering only this narrow field. We randomly decided to release new content every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, with authorship alternating between Adam and I. Based on analytics, we may decide to change this up later.
Our primary marketing strategy was to use Twitter, targeting key influencers within the community. The strategy was to build content they would enjoy, and identify emerging stories directly from their feeds.
The site does not have any advertising, as we want to focus on building our user base first. Our plan is to partner with highly relevant sponsors and bake in minimal sponsored banners. We may also consider writing sponsored posts.
A key part of our success is having original content. Most other 'news' sources simply repost press releases from an organization. This causes the proliferation of the same content across the web. Our approach is to provide much greater insight and research into the topic. Even though this takes considerable time per article, adding value to the visitor is the most important goal.
Writing takes time
We originally underestimated the time required to write a good article. I initially thought I could spin an article out in an hour or two. However, I often spend five hours researching, writing, and reviewing an article before it is ready to be reviewed by Adam. Plus, I often spend one to three hours reviewing articles written by Adam. But this is why we are able to add value to this community: writing original content is time intensive and few want to do it. Basically, people value original work.
Focus your marketing effort
We decided to focus our marketing efforts early on. In addition to us being new to marketing, we had limited resources. Twitter turned out to be a fantastic source for both sharing our content and finding new visitors. Many of the most influential people within the space community are on Twitter. Plus, retweeting and favoriting a Tweet is a low barrier for people to do, allowing our content to spread to a wide user base. Once we feel established on Twitter, we will explore Reddit and LinkedIn.
SEO takes time
I have had good success with getting my websites high SEO results. However, I had some trouble getting this site a good rank on Google. Obviously the site is new, so that hurts the SEO rank. But it's taken nearly two months for the homepage to show up on the first Google page when searching "the space resource". I have no hope for the search results for "space resources". That is a hot keyword search! I expect our frequent new content will help our results going forward, but this is a struggle.
The site is continuing to gain traction, so I will continue writing content for it. We have already had an articled cited by Universe Today, so that is very promising. I expect we will have some sponsorship within six months, which will be appreciated by then. We are also exploring additional activities on site, including a wiki and forum. It will take a lot more work, but I believe we can build a strong space resources community through this site.
Checkout the 12 startups in 12 months challenge I'm doing right now.