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.

Knight Foundation funds Philadelphia Media Network ‘digital media incubator:’ thoughts

Philadelphia Media Network CEO Greg Osberg announcing Project Liberty, which includes a tech startup incubation program. Photo by Liliputing.

The parent company of the two largest paid daily newspapers in Philadelphia is making good on its pledge to launch an incubation program. We at Technically Philly first reported on that pledge last fall.

We had heard of the likely partnerships with University City accelerator program DreamItVentures and the regional Ben Franklin Technology Partners, but what did surprise me a bit was the $250,000 in funding from the Knight Foundation to give it a go.

The initiative was a sliver of the Philadelphia Media Network’s overall Project Liberty, which focused mostly on news that the media company would offer subsidized sales of Android tablets with subscriptions to its newspaper content baked in. So, I’ve been surprised by the handful of questions I’ve had about the smaller incubation portion of the project. I’m writing here to answer them.

Continue reading Knight Foundation funds Philadelphia Media Network ‘digital media incubator:’ thoughts

Phillymag coverage of William Penn Foundation taking on News Inkubator concept

Illustration by Samuel Rhodes for Phillymag

In this month’s Philadelphia magazine, former CityPaper news editor Jeff Billman covers the forthcoming William Penn Foundation-funded news institute at Temple University and notes its roots in Technically Philly’s News Inkubator pitch:

…Quality journalism costs money to produce; these sites need both enough readers to attract advertisers and somebody to sell them ads. And that’s where the incubator comes into play. Ultimately, it may build upon an elegantly simple proposal pitched (unsuccessfully) last year by local tech blog Technically Philly to the Knight Foundation’s News Challenge: Packaged together, a dozen or more independent sites could offer advertisers hundreds of thousands of visitors, rather than a fraction of that on their own...


It’s seen as a great compliment that News Inkubator in any way influenced.

Click to enlarge.

Cobblestone: a WordPress-plugin and local Crunchbase Knight application

From Flickr user IceNineJon

Image of Old City Philadelphia cobblestone courtesy of Flickr user IceNineJon.

In the future, this project leads to:

  • Open source platform for other regionally-grouped niche sites to come together.
  • Community-edited profiles of local focus and meaning (i.e. city government lobbyists, community associations presidents and other leaders who might otherwise remain anonymous)
  • A cross-platform tool that can go beyond WordPress and work with meta data from other CMS.
  • Membership model based on support of an entire local news collaborative network.
  • Ad network integration, further connecting disparate niche sites
  • This will connect and encourage collaboration between other and future content providers in Philadelphia.

Niche news sites need to be brought together to strengthen the future of journalism.

Last year, we at Technically Philly started that hunt with a Knight News Challenge application for News Inkubator, a business services hub and incubation space for independent news startups. We didn’t make the cut, but we have taken to bootstrapping the concept by starting with an advertising network.

Today is the 2010 Knight News Challenge grant deadline, and we’ve continued that focus.

We took time to learn that our News Inkubator proposal was too broad and focused on trying to find smaller, more actionable steps, particularly ones that could work with other larger investment.

In doing so, we’re introducing Cobblestone, a proposed tagging WordPress plugin that will feed a searchable, dynamically updated, mobile-friendly directory platform homepage with content from various partners.

See our Knight application here.

Though we think it has real monetary value — considering it is based on a Technically Philly directory aimed at a membership model — this is a decidedly more editorial-first focus. Get the niche sites together, and we can build revenue together.

Perhaps the first question we expect to be asked: why is this different than Google alerts and RSS feeds?

Cobblestone gives tag-specific and cross-partner content some place to live. Once the alerts of Bill Green or the feeds from each of the partner sites pass in time, they are lost. This creates a true homepage.

Below, see our application, which you can also see here:

Continue reading Cobblestone: a WordPress-plugin and local Crunchbase Knight application

CoPress Podcast: Speaking about Technically Philly and NewsInkubator

CoPress co-founders Greg Linch and Daniel Bachhuber at BarCamp NewsInnovation 2.0 at Temple University in Philadelphia on April 24, 2010. I spoke with them about Technically Philly and News Inkubator back in December.

I missed the release of the podcast once, and it took a conference four months later to remind me once more.

Back in December, my fellow Technically Philly co-founder Sean Blanda and I spoke to CoPress co-founders Greg Linch and Daniel Bachhuber about our site’s development and its work with News Inkubator, which was passed on in its Knight News Challenge attempt but conversations continue today.

Give it a listen here.

I guess I’ll have to get a copy of the mp3, since the boys are closing down CoPress to focus on other projects.

William Penn Foundation details plan for Philadelphia online journalism network

Updated 4/25/10 @ 5:41 p.m. with William Penn Foundation clarification

Fewer than four months after its Philadelphia media elite round table to discuss the subject, the William Penn Foundation has released a more detailed outline of its intentions of investing and developing local online journalism in the region.

The report, which was released Wednesday, comes from the J-Lab journalism institute at American University and its Executive Director, Pulitzer Prize winner and former Philadelphia Inquirer business editor Jan Schaffer.

“While we’re not ready to brand the project at this point, it is fair to characterize what we have in mind as an independent journalism collaborative,” said the foundation’s President Feather Houstoun in an e-mail to stakeholders in the initiative.

The final report, which can be read in its entirety here, tacitly outlines the steps to develop roughly two things: (1) a central website of public affairs coverage and (2)  a journalism collaboration by way of staff, funding and shared administrative and business services — which I like to think was at least partially influenced by our pushing on with News Inkubator.

Updated: The William Penn Foundation will not “necessarily” implement what was found in the report, communications director Brent Thompson told me.

More broadly, as Schaffer wrote in an e-mail to those she interviewed in her months-long research: “After a deep analysis of the media landscape, J-Lab has recommended that Philadelphia is ripe for a unique Networked Journalism collaborative, partnering new media makers with original reporting on public affairs.”

It’s a quick and more detailed move less than half a year a large stakeholders meeting that was less than decisive.

Continue reading William Penn Foundation details plan for Philadelphia online journalism network

A new job: Media director for nonprofit Back on My Feet

Back on My Feet founder Anne Mahlum and members of the organization in 2007.

I’ve decided to step away from self-employment.

I’ve spent the last year of my life freelancing, by some accounts, at perhaps the worst time to do so in my life and arguably the worst time in the history of journalism.

After a meeting of the most influential media leaders in the region made clear no drastic foundational investment would be made into niche news anytime soon, I knew I needed to secure my finances — as a new homeowner, especially — and take a more cautioned approach toward building News Inkubator, Technically Philly and NEast Philly.

A funny thing happened not a week or two after I made this decision. A friend made me aware of a job opportunity I actually wanted.

On Mon. Jan. 18, I walked into a Locust Street building in Center City Philadelphia and began defining what a media director should do for homeless advocacy nonprofit Back on My Feet.

Continue reading A new job: Media director for nonprofit Back on My Feet

News Inkubator: business help for hyperlocal news

Today, more than a month after we officially launched and longer than a week after being rejected by the primary organization we directed the proposal, we at Technically Philly introduced News Inkubator to our readers.

It’s a tweaked, matured and better-branded version of what I first introduced here in October. It’s a business services hub and collaborative newsroom for niche news sites in Philadelphia. It’s a pitch to create the mechanism that we believe would create the next generation of profitable, localized news coverage.

Over at Technically Philly, a news site for technology and innovation in Philadelphia that I helped launch in February, we do a lot of coverage of startups. In doing so, we’d speak to a lot of smart 20-somethings with business plans and ideas who were handed thousands of dollars, time, mentorship and space to foster ideas. We couldn’t see why, particularly at a time of turmoil, the same opportunity wouldn’t exist for media startups.

Continue reading News Inkubator: business help for hyperlocal news