Last blog standing, “last guy dancing”: How Jason Kottke is thinking about kottke.org at 20

In 2013, Jason Kottke wrote a prediction for Nieman Lab’s year-end roundup: “The blog is dead, long live the blog.” Kottke was then (and still is) owner of one of the longest continuously running blogs on the web: kottke.org, founded in 1998. “Sometime in the past few years, the blog died. In 2014, people will finally notice,” he wrote. “Sure, blogs still exist, many of them are excellent, and they will go on existing and being excellent for many years to come. But the function of the blog, the nebulous informational task we all agreed the blog was fulfilling for the past decade, is increasingly being handled by a growing number of disparate media forms that are blog-like but also decidedly not blogs.” Kottke.org, however, is decidedly still a blog. It also celebrates its twentieth birthday this year. I spoke with Kottke about the Continue reading "Last blog standing, “last guy dancing”: How Jason Kottke is thinking about kottke.org at 20"

A new report offers a primer (and a reality check) on the news membership model

News organizations across the board have largely embraced the notion that the future of digital news will be lighter on advertising and heavier on subscriptions and other forms of reader support. Less clear, though, is what that ideal audience revenue model will look like, and, for the organizations that currently lack one, the best route to make the business shift happen. A new report from from Elizabeth Hansen at the Tow Center for Digital Journalism and Emily Goligoski at the Membership Puzzle Project offers more clarity. A product of hundreds of conversations with newsroom managers, reporters, and even members themselves, the 121-page report offers a lot of insight into what makes an effective reader revenue model work, and a framework for how news organizations can implement their own. The report was written to give news organizations a clearer picture of “the limitations and sheer amount of effort that goes into Continue reading "A new report offers a primer (and a reality check) on the news membership model"

Who needs video? Slate is pivoting to audio, and making real money doing it

2017 proved to be an interesting year for Slate Podcasts. Most prominently, it struck a curious partnership with Studio 360 last summer, taking over coproduction and digital distribution responsibilities from WNYC (where the show had been housed since its launch in 2000) as well as physically bringing the team into its offices. The network also steadily rolled out a suite of new shows, including a Spanish-language Gabfest and a few highly-produced narrative projects. One such narrative project was Slow Burn, the Leon Neyfakh-led narrative podcast that sought to capture a sense of how it felt to live through Watergate, which I largely enjoyed and reviewed for Vulture last week. It turned out to be a hit for the company — not just as a standalone podcast project, but also as a lead-generation vessel for its membership program, Slate Plus. Even though the core Slow Burn experience is available Continue reading "Who needs video? Slate is pivoting to audio, and making real money doing it"

To make fundraising appeals more appealing, Mother Jones turns them into stories readers want to read

December is the season for fundraising appeals. In an inbox awash with individual appeals from publishers, standing out is tough, and brevity seems the obvious way to go. Mother Jones has found success instead in longform essays — as long as as a couple of thousand words — about the process and work of journalism, and about the changing economics of the journalism industry. “I won’t beat around the bush: December is our most important fundraising month, and I hope that by the time you finish reading this, you will consider joining in (or renewing your support) with a tax-deductible donation,” Monika Bauerlein, Mother Jones’ CEO, wrote in her latest appeal for December, titled “It’s a Perfect Storm for Destroying Journalism.” “But whether or not you’re ready to pitch in, I hope you’ll keep on reading, because this story is about a lot more than Mother Jones. Continue reading "To make fundraising appeals more appealing, Mother Jones turns them into stories readers want to read"

Want to write for Publish.org? Every step of the process — from pitching to edits to payment — will be open

If you want to write for the new collaborative, public journalism site Publish.org, you should be open to showing your work. The Publish.org platform, which had been testing its backend and workflow with a smaller group of writers in closed beta over the past few months, opened up last week to all contributors — people who want to write, people who want to donate, people who want to review other people’s works-in-progress, or all of the above. How well the model will work ultimately depends on how active its contributors are willing to be, and the platform offers several avenues of participating. Anyone can register and write a piece, and then await public feedback from other Publish.org members (hello, Medium). The bulk of the work that appears on the site, however, will be through its public commissioning process, according to Publish.org editor Sarah Hartley. (Hartley,
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Three years in, Discourse Media looks to membership to power its national expansion

Can a “scrappy West Coast startup” go national in an expansion based on crowd investment and a membership platform drawing on artificial intelligence? There are a lot of ingredients in that mix. As my colleague Shan Wang noted in Nieman Lab’s earlier coverage of Discourse Media, a “full-service” digital journalism organization based in Vancouver, Discourse does a bit of everything. CEO and editor-in-chief Erin Millar co-founded the company with two fellow beat reporters to develop a space for more enterprising, investigative stories in 2014; the company now employs more than a dozen people. The founders have spent the past 18 months researching and preparing for their national, membership-supported push. “It’s been a ton of support from every corner that I didn’t expect,” Millar said, days after announcing the expansion and opening the low-bar investing platform that encourages investment from ordinary Canadians as well as professional investors. “[The Canadian news Continue reading "Three years in, Discourse Media looks to membership to power its national expansion"

Asking members to support its journalism (no prizes, no swag), The Guardian raises more reader revenue than ad dollars

Instead of using tote bags, tickets to live events, or other swag, The Guardian‘s membership program has grown to 800,000 supporters a year and a half after doubling down on its membership initiative. The key? A shift from a commercially focused plea to an emotional, service-based request, the two women leading the effort said. “Our appeal is very much an appeal from The Guardian,” Amanda Michel, deputy executive editor of membership and senior product manager for acquisitions and data technology, said. “It doesn’t speak to the section they’re in. It doesn’t speak to what they read. It speaks to the heart of the Guardian’s moment.” Financial difficulties struck The Guardian, the London-based, trust-owned international news organization, in recent years, with the print-to-digital advertising downturn that wracked news industries around the world. It had also taken on an ambitious plan to expand internationally following its coverage of Edward
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