Crowd funding concept

13 ways to get your journalism project crowdfunded

While handwringing over financial support for journalism is nothing new, it’s been especially fraught recently. From the Nate Thayer/Atlantic dustup to the possibility that the Tribune papers may be sold to the Koch brothers, everyone in media seems worried about funding the Fourth Estate.

One hopeful sign for such worriers: Crowdfunding has become a way to support journalism projects from one-off articles to the wholesale launch of new publications.

Back in 2008, crowdfunding platform Spot.us launched to support reporting, and has helped publish stories on partner sites ranging from The New York Times to Cleveland Free Press. Since Kickstarter’s launch in April 2009, 816 journalism projects have sought funding on the site, with 36 percent of them succeeding.

It’s not just individual articles that have gotten support. Matter, Tomorrow, The Big Roundtable and Homicide Watch have all launched publications or paid for programs by appealing to the Internet. Read more

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Wednesday, Apr. 24, 2013

hand with money

8 ways to increase the chances that you’ll get funding for your media startup

Journalism skills and a good idea are essential for bringing your media startup to life — but they don’t entitle you to financial support from a foundation or an investment from a venture-capital firm.

“Assuming that you can get funding because you have journalism skills and an idea is not very persuasive in this particular environment,” said Jan Schaffer, executive director of J-Lab, which funds entrepreneurial projects. Instead, she said in a phone interview, media entrepreneurs have to prove to investors and grant providers why they and their idea are worth it.

So how do you prove that? Here are eight tips:

1. Partner up

Being a jack of all trades and master of none isn’t the best way for journalists to approach entrepreneurship. Instead, media entrepreneurs should build a multidisciplinary team that’s capable of accomplishing their goals, said Corey Ford, CEO of Matter, a startup accelerator and early-stage venture-capital firm that invests in media ventures. Read more

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Thursday, May 10, 2012

How startup sites can take advantage of emerging revenue streams

As journalism entities move beyond ads in pursuit of new revenue streams, events have proven a popular target. People who won’t pay $15 for a digital subscription, the theory goes, may pay $20 instead for wine, cheese and a panel of journalists.

Staging events isn’t a simple endeavor for small organizations structured around news. But for many up-and-coming media organizations like GeekWire, an independent tech news site and online community in Seattle, events are an important part of increasingly diverse streams of revenue.

Rebecca Lovell

During a live chat this week, we’ll discuss events and other emerging revenue streams with Rebecca Lovell, Geekwire’s chief business officer.

Lovell, who oversees the site’s advertising, events, sponsorship and other business initiatives, answered chat participants’ questions and shared thoughts on a variety of topics, including:

  • What separates successful events from those that flop
  • Lessons learned about new revenue streams
  • How to overcome challenges that growing news startups face

You can replay the chat below. Read more

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Friday, Apr. 27, 2012

3 ways entrepreneurial journalists can successfully pitch their projects

Ever tried telling your life’s story in a minute? Melting years down into seconds is tough. Summing up a long-simmering passion project can be equally hard.

Whether you’re pitching a new journalism project to a friend or to a financier, you often have to pack your message into a few fleeting moments. To persuade people to invest, collaborate, or even just try out a site requires a special kind of compact communication.

Journalists have ample opportunity to present new ideas. Some 2012 journalism conferences, like the Unity 2012 Convention, feature sessions expressly for startups. Beyond online competitions, like the Knight News Challenge, journopreneurs are increasingly finding alternative outlets for presentations ranging from library talks to Hacks/Hackers Demo Nights.

Whereas slides were once expected, a backlash against traditional PowerPoint presentations among journalists and funders alike has opened the door to more inventive approaches. Here are tips on three approaches for anyone preparing to pitch a project. Read more

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Thursday, Mar. 01, 2012

Practical tips, resources for entrepreneurial journalists with legal questions

Entrepreneurs leading new journalism ventures confront numerous legal questions. How and when should I determine the appropriate legal structure for my business? What contracts should I use with partners, employees and investors? What legal issues should I be prepared for and, as a journopreneur, who can I turn to for low-cost or pro bono guidance?

I’m not a lawyer, and this post isn’t intended to offer specific legal advice or replace the professional insight of a lawyer. The resources below are offered simply as a starting point for anyone launching a project who anticipates having to grapple with legal questions as the project develops.

Seeking pro bono help

One of the best places to begin, if you’re starting up a media-related project, is the Online Media Legal Network at Harvard’s Berkman Center. The center describes itself as “a network of law firms, law school clinics, in-house counsel, and individual lawyers throughout the United States willing to provide pro bono (free) and reduced fee legal assistance to qualifying online journalism ventures and other digital media creators.”

Not every journalism or media startup will qualify for OMLN’s free legal assistance, but you can quickly assess your eligibility with this FAQ. Read more

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Friday, Jan. 27, 2012

Cheap & useful tools that can help entrepreneurial journalists be more efficient

When it comes to tools, entrepreneurial journalists have the advantage of being free. Free of the obligation to use a news organization’s clunky software packages. Free from layers of tech bureaucracy. And free from having to get approval to try new tools. That freedom, of course, comes at a price. No longer is someone else footing the bill for your digital toolkit. That makes a different kind of free all the more attractive. Free tools.

Fortunately, software developers have turned the world of tools upside down in recent years. Gone are the days when you had to fork out several hundred dollars — or more — for a suite of communication/productivity/office software. If you’re running a small, straightforward project, you can get by with easy-to-use software tools that are free or just a few bucks a month, and most work seamlessly across platforms and devices.

Here’s a quick guide to some of the most useful, easy-to-use tools for any journalist developing a project without a big budget or a lot of time to invest in learning new tech. Read more

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Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2012

4 ways to start researching the market for your new journalism venture

Journalists love to dive in. Once we’ve got a topic in mind, we rush off to report, write/record, edit and publish. When launching a new venture, though, whether a local or niche site, an app, a network or something else entirely, it’s useful to add a fifth step early on: market research.

In addition to surfacing opportunities you may not have thought about, market research helps clarify the characteristics and interests of your community. It also arms you with business information that’s useful when you’re pitching your product or service to advertisers, sponsors, investors or potential partners.

Before ponying up for subscription services, spend some time with the free resources I’ve outlined below. They’ll help you get a preliminary handle on your intended market.

Size up your audience

Start by gathering basic qualitative and quantitative information about your community and your competitors. Get a quick overview of the businesses in your target ZIP codes. Read more

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Thursday, Oct. 27, 2011

streetfight

4 lessons for hyperlocal media from inaugural Street Fight Summit

Deals don’t mean dollars. That was a point of consensus at the inaugural Street Fight Summit in New York City Oct. 25 and 26. Over two days, the summit’s 60 presenters and panelists analyzed their adventures in the trenches of hyperlocal media. Some panels addressed the evolution of daily deals and the looming impact of location-based services. Other sessions focused on the economics of local publishing and lessons learned by successful and failed independent journalism ventures.

A key question threaded throughout the conference was how best to turn local consumers into reliable revenue streams. The most valuable insights for independent publishers in attendance centered around new opportunities for better serving local businesses. Over the course of 20 sessions packed into two days, four themes emerged.

1. Local businesses need hand-holding, full-service partners. Local news sites may have an opportunity to fill that function.

Faye Penn, the founding editor of Brokelyn.com, a blog based in Brooklyn, NY, came away from the conference with new interest in LocalVox.com, a platform publishers can use to help local businesses with everything from a landing page to social media and search engine optimization. Read more

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Friday, Sep. 23, 2011

loadingscreen

What’s working at news startups, from Seattle to Vermont

The best sign that entrepreneurial journalism endeavors are moving in the right direction is that so many of them are heading in different directions. That was obvious Thursday during a pre-conference workshop hosted by J-Lab and executive director Jan Schaffer, the day before the annual Online News Association conference, held this year in Boston.

The event offered an amazing stream of data points from operations big — Texas Tribune, New Haven Independent, St. Louis Beacon — and small — DavidsonNews, RVANews, for example — with these compelling insights (for more details, check the Twitter stream from the session).

A non-profit model works best when associated with investigative journalism, especially at a city, regional or state level. This insight came from Cory Bergman, co-founder of Next Door Media, a network of neighborhood sites in Seattle (Bergman is also a member of Poynter’s National Advisory Board). The non-profit model is working well at places like the Texas Tribune, which expects to raise $3.5 million this year and reach the break-even point. Read more

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Thursday, Apr. 07, 2011

How to get to $200K: Lessons in building a profitable niche news site

For every splashy new online news venture with a big name backer, from New York’s DNAInfo to Hawaii’s Civil Beat, there are a dozen smaller startups inching their way toward profitability. One such tiny new news venture, operated out of its managers’ homes, is a financial niche site that generated more than $200,000 in revenue last year.

RIABiz.com, a news site aimed at registered investment advisers, has grown steadily since launching in August 2009 by developing strong ad sales and a well-trafficked industry directory.

I talked with RIABiz Editor and CEO Elizabeth MacBride via e-mail to find out how she did it and what she’s learned about the nuances of running a news startup. You can read our edited exchange below.

Jeremy Caplan: How did you get started with RIABiz.com?

Elizabeth MacBride: In early 2008, the budget for my [contributing editor] job at Crain’s New York Business was cut, and although I was still working for the paper and for other places, I had more time on my hands. Read more

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