The Outline built itself on being “weird.” But is it weird enough to survive?

There are some sites that everyone roots for. Scrappy, beloved. See: The Awl. The Toast. Or not so scrappy, but beloved still. See: Grantland. When they shut down, people mourn them. Then there’s The Outline. In April 2016, Joshua Topolsky wrote a Medium post entitled “Your media business will not be saved.” Topolsky, the cofounder of The Verge, had left his position as Bloomberg’s top digital editor several months before. “Your problem,” he told his fellow media people, “is that you make shit”:
A lot of shit. Cheap shit. And no one cares about you or your cheap shit. And an increasingly aware, connected, and mutable audience is onto your cheap shit. They don’t want your cheap shit. They want the good shit. And they will go to find it somewhere. Hell, they’ll even pay for it. The truth is that the best and most important things the
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MediaShift Podcast #204: Facebook’s Algorithm Trends Down; Vice Mistreats Freelancers; Matter’s Corey Ford

In the news this week, Facebook fires its news editors, and puts the algorithm in charge. You can guess how that turned out: not very well! While Vice Media might be hip and cool, it’s very uncool in its treatment of freelancers. And social media is now the top news source for 18 to 24-year-olds, according to a new report from Reuters Institute. Politico’s Joe Pompeo joins us to talk about a potential new media outlet from Donald Trump. Our Metric of the Week is “scroll depth” — how low can you go? — and we go one-on-one with Matter’s Corey Ford. Don’t have a lot of time to spare, but still want to get a roundup of the week’s top news? Then check out our Digital Media Brief below!
"Headline for everybody out there: Your ideas kind of suck. They are good starting points to take action off of
mark glaser ISOJ headshot
Joe Pompeo Headshot
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Can WordRates, PitchLab Flip the Script for Freelancers vs. Publishers?

Award-winning investigative journalist, author and anthropologist Scott Carney thinks that writers are getting paid too little. Way too little. His solution? To make publications compete against one another — and after raising $9,307 from 246 backers (full disclosure: I was one of them) through Kickstarter in May, he’s now launched a two-tiered project to do just that. WordRates, the first tier of the project, will provide a Yelp-esque database of user-submitted ratings of editors, publications and boilerplate contracts, along with contact information for editors. The second part of the project, PitchLab, is modeled after the book publishing industry. It will employ mentors to workshop pitches with journalists and help shop them around to multiple publications in order to get the best rate and contract. For freelancers frustrated with stagnant rates and the lack of transparency in the publishing industry, WordRates and PitchLabs are exciting opportunities to level the playing field (which we previously 
Image by Wikimedia and used here with Creative Commons license.
Screenshot courtesy of
Screenshot courtesy of
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Daily Must Reads, September 9, 2015

1. The Washington Post has developed 8 apps for quizzes and games (Benjamin Mullin / Poynter)

  1. Why PBS and ‘viewers like you’ must continue saving ‘POV’ & ‘Independent Lens’ (Daniel Clarkson Fisher / Medium)

  2. LinkedIn CEO talks to Kara Swisher about shaping LinkedIn into a content giant on Re/Code Decode (Noah Kulwin / Re/code) [AUD]

  3. How Scotland made its council audit data less open (with happy ending) (Paul Bradshaw / Online Journalism Blog)

  4. Greenpeace hires team of investigative journalists (Jasper Jackson / Guardian)

  5. What writers make in 2015 (Noah Davis / The Awl)

  6. What makes Uber run (Max Chafkin / Fast Company)


Our Must Reads come out every Monday through Friday.

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Will Washington Post’s Talent Network Become the Uber of Freelancing?

For all the technological progress that has been made in the past couple decades, it often seems like freelancing for media companies is stuck in the ’90s. When I wrote a story for BuzzFeed, which, admittedly, doesn’t work with freelancers very often, edits were done over Google Docs, contracts were passed between a number of business intermediates and the check took almost a month to arrive in my mailbox. For a company that embodies everything digital, I found it a little odd that BuzzFeed would send me an actual check. And for freelancers trying to make a living, this is just part of doing business. The antiquated process isn’t the fault of anyone in particular, least of all the editors, who hate getting bogged down in these time-consuming administrative tasks as much as anyone. Lately, however, it seems media companies are finally realizing the kind of benefits that come
The Washington Post. Photo by Daniel X. O'Neil and used here with Creative Commons license.
Photo by niclas and used here with Creative Commons license.
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How Freelancers Make Money and Tell Stories With Snapchat

When the announcement came late last year that Instagram was now bigger than Twitter, as reported by CNBC, those who once scoffed at the photo-focused network started jumping on board. But as usual, there’s already another up-and-comer ready to take the spotlight: Snapchat. Video and images shared on Snapchat may disappear after 24 hours, but the app doesn’t seem like it will disappear anytime soon. And freelancers are starting to snap to it.

Humorous engagement and building a brand

Take freelance photographer Branden Harvey, who has an impressive 99,000 followers on Instagram. On Snapchat, he only engages with about 4,000 people regularly, but his following is incredibly engaged. “Instagram only gave me an outlet to share a part of who I am,” Harvey said. “I found that my Instagram photos took on more of a serious tone, which is a true, real part of me, but I also
Photo by Flickr user Adam Przezdziek and reused here with Creative Commons license.
Photo by Flickr user Daniel Go and reused here with Creative Commons license.
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Why Media Startups Need a Guide to Navigating the Law

When I launched J-Lab in 2002, the best piece of advice I received was to have a lawyer draft a Memorandum of Understanding outlining the relationship between my center and its soon-to-be home, the University of Maryland. The agreement detailed how I would support my startup, who owned the intellectual property, how much the university would charge for administering my incoming grants — and how I might spin the center into its own 50s(c)3 or affiliate with another fiscal agent in the future. Thanks to that MOU, when U-MD changed its rules for grant-supported centers, I was able to seamlessly transition to American University. The MOU basically served as a pre-nup agreement. I never really expected to need the MOU — until I did. So, too, are new media startups finding themselves in situations where they need to know about, and plan for, an array of legal issues. Many of these issues particularly affect digital-first news sites.
Co-author Jeff Kosseff

Co-author Jeff Kosseff

With this, and many more experiences under my belt, I approached Jeff Kosseff, a Washington, D.C., media lawyer and fellow AU adjunct, about co-authoring “Law for Media Startups.” We wanted to make it a user-friendly online guide to what news entrepreneurs need to know and also help them identify when they needed professional help. Next, I recruited CUNY’s Tow-Knight Center for Journalism Entrepreneurship to help support the project. The result: our 12-chapter guide that we hope will be as helpful to educators teaching media law courses and it will be to startup founders themselves. A downloadable PDF is coming soon.
Photo by Chapendra on Flickr and used here with Creative Commons license.
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