Fund My Media J-Lab ONA pre-conference highlights

The J-Lab Institute for Interactive Journalism held a pre-conference called ‘Fund My Media’ before the launch of the Online News Association annual conference Thursday.

Building on last year’s pre-conference before the ONA national event in San Francisco, the morning of discussions, speakers and panels were decidedly focused on keeping online editorial products alive: from foundation support, to events to other for-profit revenue. The event preceded the ONA conference held today and tomorrow.

You can watch the archived livestream of the morning’s sessions here.

Full Disclosure: In conjunction with the J-Lab Networked Journalism Collaborative project and funded by the William Penn Foundation, the OMG Center for Collaborative Learning has generously sponsored and supported my attendance here.

Yesterday’s ‘Fund My Media’ morning series of sessions were inventive and practical. Jan Schaffer and crew put together a rich, insightful, varied and fast moving event. It was a pleasure.

I shared a slew of thoughts, which I think will be updated, but here are some first thoughts for those who weren’t as fortunate to attend, and perhaps even those who have:

Legal Heads Up: What you need to know to start a nonprofit news site.

David Ardia – Director, Citizen Media Law Project, Berkman Center, Harvard University

Launching With Little: Building A News Site from Scratch

Susan Mernit – Founder, Oakland (Calif.) Local; Tom Ferrick – Founder, Metropolis, Phila., Pa; David Boraks – Founder and Editor, DavidsonNews.net, Davidson, N.C.

  • More user interaction happens on Facebook than site, said Oakland Local’s Susan Mernit. Same as NEast Philly.
  • Big investigative stories and quick posts are trafficked, not “middle layer” of longer, single or limited source features, said Oakland Local.
  • In 2002, former Inquirer columnist Tom Ferrick wrote a memo to the then-web team suggesting a “How do I…” section of Philly.com, he said.
  • The Philadelphia Inquirer had 624 editorial employees in 2000 and 330 now, said Tom Ferrick.
  • “If you don’t ask, they won’t give” said David Boraks of DavidsonNews.net. Eight to ten percent of readers donate.
  • DavidsonNews.net brings in $5k-$10k a month in revenue after four years. Looking for investment to grow into other cities, Boraks said.
  • “Journalism is an entrepreneurial venture,” said David Boraks.

Breaking into the World of Foundation Grants

Jim Cutie – Chief Operating Officer, CT Mirror; John Mooney – Founding Editor, NJ Spotlight

  • Foundations and corporate backers give money and credibility to niche, hyperlocal and other online sites, said John.
  • CTMirror.com has seven reporters, an editor, a board and management. That means great editorial wall but lots of overhead, I thought.
  • CT Mirror has a $700k annual budget with one editor and seven reporters and NJ Spotlight has a $400k annual budget with three full-timers and other staff, they said.
  • Foundations look for serious diverse revenue model by year three, said Jim Cutie of CT Mirror.

Building your Site Through Other Revenue

Ben Ilfeld – Owner and COO, Sacramento Press; David Cohn – Founder and Director, Spot.Us

  • “The advertiser always loses” said Ben Ilfeld, if a site that is part of their SLOAN ad network writes something that turns off a sponsor.
  • David Cohn and Ben Ilfeld both talked about their projects being a small part of partner site revenue
  • Adify is “the only solution” for a true ad network, said Ben Ilfeld, but it is only justified if making $10k monthly.

Keynote Speaker: Evan A. Smith, CEO and Editor of Texas Tribune