Niche news site membership model perspective brought back to life from 2009

The internet doesn’t forget. So I often stockpile perspective (links) for the future.

In 2009, we at Technically Philly were digging our heels into looking at how diversify revenue for a local community news site. In the end, the largest driver turned out to be events, specifically the annual Philly Tech Week we organize. Before then and after some advertising, jobs board and light underwriting revenue, we toyed with donations, gettingsome prominent support and the requisite pushback.

In all the experimentation back then, I saved some great insight, much of which has been relevant lately. As we move back to a new form of that older conversation, I wanted to share a few takeaways from my reading back in 2009.

Continue reading Niche news site membership model perspective brought back to life from 2009

Either build the news site for the mission or build the mission for the news site

Updated I gave a presentation similar to this theme to a pair of college classes recently, one of which resulted in these takeaways.

To have a news community ‘succeed,’ it needs to either be built around a mission or the mission needs to be built into its community.

That means, if, for the foreseeable future, a more competitive, newly web-based news and information environment best attracts audience by way of connecting a community to a mission, those best suited to succeed will have one.

Continue reading Either build the news site for the mission or build the mission for the news site

This is what goes into a functioning news ecosystem

A functioning local news ecosystem, one that has mechanisms to ask tough questions and serve as a hub of a common set of facts for a region, seems to have some straightforward ingredients.

What traditionally drove a functioning modern news ecosystem (20th century)

  • PROFITABLE – Funding mechanism (advertising)
  • AUDIENCE – Mass dissemination tool (front page or TV news top)
  • COMPETITIVE – Connected network of reporters (newsroom) and competing mass audiences
  • IMPACT – Investigative journalism (ideological and financial subsidy)
  • DEPTH – Robust, focused news coverage (niche newspaper beat reporting)

What this might look like in the near future (and in some ways now)

  • PROFITABLE – Funding mechanism (patchwork of profitable sites, technologies, new orgs with journalism DNA and more focused legacy, philanthropic outlets)
  • AUDIENCE – Mass dissemination tool (top-level aggregation, applications) to service fractured landscape made up of far smaller, much deeper niche communities
  • COLLABORATIVE – Connected network of reporters (news coworking), link building, partnership-driven, fewer big players, more smaller oens
  • IMPACT – Investigative journalism (new nonprofit organizations, journalism DNA), bigger audience for community-focused efforts
  • DEPTH – Robust, focused news coverage (crowd sourcing, social media, niche blogs and indie sites)

So looking at your market, what is lacking? Set about serving that role.

Journalism is still letting revenue models slip away: my greatest fear for the future of news

 

Revenue models for local journalism are still quickly being siphoned off from prospective journalism creators of the future.

We’ve had no shortage of hand-wringing around the future of news in recent years. As I see it, simple access to news and information won’t be the problem of the future, since publishing keeps getting easier which adds to the number of sources (though creating the infrastructure to have a broad set of common facts locally might be. Still that’s another issue for another post).

Instead, I am far more concerned about the future of local journalism. (I am not talking about international war reporting or national politics, as those audiences can be relatively so large that I trust in niche players, like Propublica and the New York Times finding a foothold). Instead, I’m talking about state houses, city halls, niche communities and neighborhoods.

The loss (or failure to recreate) journalism in those places is my greatest fear for the future of asking tough questions and what professionally keeps me awake at night more than almost anything else.

Continue reading Journalism is still letting revenue models slip away: my greatest fear for the future of news

News coworking in Philadelphia: Knight News Challenge app on the future newsroom

In all of regions, there is a great need to envision the future of the metro newsroom, which feature smart, engaged reporters on a variety of beats able to work together to better inform other residents and keep government honest.

In a fractured media ecosystem, the newsroom of the future is coworking for independent media. Reporters and editors together — freelance, niche sites and more — sharing and pushing forward the coverage and conversation among news creators in a given market.

I submitted a Knight News Challenge grant application on that very subject. See it here or on Google Docs here.

It wasn’t accepted, so that may slow the implementation of this, but I’ll work on it regardless.

I’ve been turned down by the News Challenge before.

In 2009, my colleagues and I submitted a business services pitch that was, though well founded, too large and convoluted to carry much weight. By the time it was re-formed as News Inkubator, it included something like this new pitch. Then again in 2010, we submitted a pitch for a shared community director called Cobblestone.

The third time just gives things a more rounded edge.

For news coworking, while others have talked about the idea, no one appears to be taking on the broad collaboration conversation with it. Launching an effort like this could tie into local chapters of ONA and Hacks/Hackers, it could bring the famed Pen & Pencil Club onto a more national stage and could be a chance to tell the long-tail story of Philadelphia journalism — maybe a historic directory like this and a museum of great work.

More to come on this.

Online News Association national conference should come to Philadelphia: here are 10 reasons why

I have been blessed to attend the last two national Online News Association conferences, one in D.C. and last year’s in Boston.

This year, the celebrated, 13-year-old organization will host its annual event of more than 5,000 members in San Franciso to offer some geographical balance to the affair. There is some call for a Midwest event in 2013, which might make sense, but whether it’s next year or in 2014, the conference, expo and meeting of the minds of news innovation should happen in Philadelphia.

Updated: Apparently Philadelphia is booked for 2014. So, uh, 2015?

I’m part of a small group in Philadelphia lobbying for the effort, which includes a formal application process, and that application is being submitted. Still, I felt it worth sharing what appears to me to be the clear reasons why this would be an easy decision.

Here are 10 reasons:

Continue reading Online News Association national conference should come to Philadelphia: here are 10 reasons why

Ph.ly: the Philly URL shortener and weekly email that will make you a better Philadelphian

Meet Ph.ly, the local URL shortener and the curated weekly email that will make you a better Philadelphian.

Try the tool and add your email here.

Last week, we at Technically Media announced that we launched Ph.ly, which has two primary features.

  1. URL shortener with a Philly focus — Try ph.ly/connect to see how domains can be shortened more beautifully and more relevantly.
  2. Weekly curated email of the three biggest pieces of local journalism — If enough people add their emails to the list, we will curate the three most meaningful pieces of local news and information to allow more Philadelphians to more easily consume the best of all the region’s content creators. It’s a hope to create a common set of facts for Philadelphians. Perhaps it’s a model for other markets.

MinnPost CEO Joel Kramer: notes on dinner with the founder of the profitable news nonprofit

A small group of journalism practitioners in Philadelphia were treated with the chance to have dinner and throw questions at MinnPost CEO Joel Kramer Tuesday night. Kramer is the former publisher of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune and a frequent example of success in growing public affairs journalism online.

I was blessed to be among them and certainly took the chance to ask an array of questions about his efforts of building a statewide public policy news nonprofit that I haven’t seen answered in the considerable coverage of his efforts.

Among the celebrated local news representatives there was the newly named CEO of the local journalism institute at Temple, Neil Budde.

Though much more was handled in the 90-minute conversation that followed a public Q&A session that I heard was well-attended and lively, I wanted to share some notes I took out of this more intimate, though on-the-record, setting.

Continue reading MinnPost CEO Joel Kramer: notes on dinner with the founder of the profitable news nonprofit

Notes on bold change for the Philadelphia Media Network, regardless of who the owners are, and why it won’t happen

Ownership concerns be damned, the publisher of the largest news organization in one of the largest markets in the country needs to make a major shake up in company structure and output or face a continued decline.

The Philadelphia Media Network, owners of the city’s two daily newspapers and most trafficked news site, announced almost 40 more editorial layoffs and buyouts this month, prompting speculation of another sale. The perception of leadership at the paper has been seriously damaged with a growing number of reports of editorial interference, particularly around coverage of the potential sale, though they’ve happened before.

Fears have risen that an investor group led by former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell could be a biased fifth owner in six years for the company. News of what damage bias could do the organization has clouded the root frustration that the company is failing.

While ownership bias has dominated the coverage, I’m most concerned that no one whose news innovation vision garners much contemporary respect is at the organization’s helm. That’s what is most keeping rhythm to the slow drumbeat of expectations for failure that has been heralded for a decade.

Below, find some initial, broad thoughts on how the organization might be reshaped.

Continue reading Notes on bold change for the Philadelphia Media Network, regardless of who the owners are, and why it won’t happen

Steve Jobs: ‘I don’t want to see us descend into a nation of bloggers’ [VIDEO]

In honor of the passing of Steve Jobs, I was trolling through videos of the Apple co-founder. I came across one that was very relevant to the news industry today.

More than a year ago, Steve Jobs spoke about the iPad and Apple’s broad role in touching publishing and journalism, during a broader interview at the D8 conference.

At 1:50 in the below video, watch highlights of Jobs talking about his relationship with news and follow the quote below.

“One of my beliefs, very strongly, is that any democracy depends on a free, healthy press…. Some of these papers — news and editorial gathering organizations — are really important. I don’t want to see us descend into a nation of bloggers myself. I think we need editorial more than ever right now. Anything that we can do to help the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal and other news gathering organizations find new ways of expression so they can afford to get paid, so they can afford to keep their news gathering editorial operations in tact, I’m all for. What we have to do is figure out a way to get people to start paying for this hard earned content. So [the tablet industry] provides us an opportunity to offer something more than just a web page and to start charging something for that. I’m trying to get these folks to take more aggressive postures than what they traditionally charged for print because they don’t have the expenses of printing, they don’t have the expenses of delivery and to charge a reasonable price and go for volume. I think people are willing to pay for content.”