Newsonomics: With a cross-country merger, Spirited Media aims to build a nationwide digital local news chain

Consider it a baby chain. Today, with broad ambitions, two of America’s young, dynamic, millennials-targeting, mobile-first city news companies are merging. They’ll take the name of the older (by 19 months) company, Spirited Media.

That company, funded and founded by serial digital news entrepreneur Jim Brady, opened up Philly’s Billy Penn in October 2014 and Pittsburgh’s The Incline, six months ago. Merging into Spirited is Denverite, the 10-month-old startup bankrolled by investors Gordon Crovitz, Kevin Ryan, and Jim Friedlich. The new company, to be led by Brady as CEO, vision-setter, and cheerleader, also counts Gannett as a minority investor as the country’s largest news company aims to learn tricks of the newer trade.

The combined company will employ 27, 21 of them content-creating journalists. In total, the three sites combined, by their internal counts, reach about 1 million readers per month. Given the newness of their sites, Continue reading "Newsonomics: With a cross-country merger, Spirited Media aims to build a nationwide digital local news chain"

Jim Brady: Events and experiences are key to connecting younger audiences to local news

At 49, Jim Brady has already led several digital lifetimes. As a young sports-turned-digital editor, he won early notice and acclaim in helping build the original washingtonpost.com.

That site, it’s easy to forget, stood with just a few others at the head of the class among mid-aughts newspaper sites. Brady left the Post in 2009 and his decade of work tracks the vicissitudes of the American news industry. In addition to consulting for both The Guardian and Philadelphia Media Network, he took on entrepreneurial roles first as founding general manager of the Washington D.C. city site TBD and Digital First Media’s ill-fated Project Thunderdome under then-CEO John Paton.

After Thunderdome imploded, Brady told me he was rethinking the idea of working for others; he had a notion of building his own news business, leveraging all he’d learned. Spirited Media, the parent company of millennial-oriented, smartphone-centric Billy Penn Continue reading "Jim Brady: Events and experiences are key to connecting younger audiences to local news"

Sidewire is civil, thoughtful, and either exactly right or exactly wrong for this political moment

There’s a kind of experience that’s particular to Twitter: A casual user, curious about the latest bit of Trump news, checks the service to see what people who have experience with these issues are saying in real-time, glimpsing a tweetstorm punctuated by egg-avatared trolls, irrelevant replies, and maybe a few good criticisms. It can be overwhelming. (Even in a crazy election year, Twitter added no monthly active users in the U.S..)

Sidewire — proclaiming to be “where experts chat in public” — wants to squeeze out the trolling and abuse prevalent on platforms like Twitter and clear a space for calm discussion free of social media “noise.” It limits chat participants on the platform to vetted “newsmakers” and trims conversation topics to just a handful of the most consequential or debateworthy news events. Launched in September 2015, it now hosts around 800 “verified experts,” around a third

Continue reading "Sidewire is civil, thoughtful, and either exactly right or exactly wrong for this political moment"

How the Hindustan Times Is Building the World’s Largest Mobile Journalism Team

Yusuf Omar is the Mobile Editor at the Hindustan Times in India. He is currently building the world’s largest in-house mobile journalism team, training 750 reporters to tell stories using their phones. Yusuf was recently awarded at the world’s first ever Snapchat awards — The Ghosties — for his use of social media for social good. Yusuf also won IJNet’s Journalist of the Month in September 2016, for his use of Snapchat to tell the stories of sexual abuse survivors in India — or rather, to allow them to tell their own stories through selfie journalism. In 2015 he won Vodacom Journalist of the Year Editor’s Choice as well being named a Top 20 Global Millennial To Watch In 2016 by Cliff Central. Yusuf’s first forays in mobile journalism began in 2010, when he hitchhiked from South Africa to Syria with nothing but his smartphone and a small handheld camera to tell Continue reading "How the Hindustan Times Is Building the World’s Largest Mobile Journalism Team"

Newsonomics: Rebuilding the news media will require doubling-down on its core values

“Alt-what?” I asked the audience of the leaders of America’s alternative press, in a talk last Friday, the day of the inauguration and the day before an estimated 100,000 people marched through downtown Portland, Oregon in protest. “Alt-what in America’s growing news deserts” was the title of my talk, and it followed up on my most recent Nieman Lab column. In that piece, I asked who — struggling dailies, emerging public radio initiatives, spirited startups, local TV stations — might seize the opportunity of the day and ramp up the kind of local news coverage that readers might support with subscription or membership. Could alt-weeklies be part of the solution? More than 100 of them still populate the landscape, from the hometown Portland’s Pulitzer-winning Willamette Week to Cincinnati’s CityBeat to Vermont’s Seven Days to the L.A. Weekly (itself just now put for sale). The alternative press was Continue reading "Newsonomics: Rebuilding the news media will require doubling-down on its core values"

Newsonomics: Trump may be the news industry’s greatest opportunity to build a sustainable model

One of the most challenging periods in American press history begins at noon Eastern today. The cries of “Lügenpresse” (defended by the outlet until recently run by new chief strategist to the president) echo almost as much as the stiff-arm salutes in the nation’s capital in late October. The Russian propaganda service Russia Today (now nicely rebranded as RT America) somehow taking over the airwaves of C-SPAN for 10 minutes is just icing on the cake. Who knows what language cable news’ crawls will be in soon? As we feel the ever-louder banging on the doors of a free press, we should also hear, weirdly, another knocking. That’s the knocking of opportunity. It’s not just the “journalistic spring” that Jack Shafer predicts as the conflicts and controversies of the Trump administration prove fertile ground for investigation. It’s the opportunity to rewrite the tattered social contract between journalists and readers, Continue reading "Newsonomics: Trump may be the news industry’s greatest opportunity to build a sustainable model"

At the BBC, the launch of in-app vertical video is a step toward connecting with new audiences

When BBC News began experimenting with vertical video in its main mobile app last year, many staffers were skeptical. But the player’s development has helped “take some new departments into the world of iterative, user-centered design,” in the words of creative director Ryan O’Connor, and results are promising. In the fall, after internally testing the vertical video in the app, BBC News unveiled a reboot of its main mobile app. Even though just a fraction of the BBC’s audience uses the app, 48 percent of BBC News’ digital video is viewed there, and about a quarter of viewers watch more than five clips weekly. The broadcaster wanted to take steps to make those videos more mobile-friendly and move beyond just repackaging TV stories. There are now two modules that play vertical video within the BBC app. “Videos of the Day” is a Snapchat-like playlist of stories that users can
Continue reading "At the BBC, the launch of in-app vertical video is a step toward connecting with new audiences"