News startups: The futue of journalism is friendly

The Mark's Jeff Anders. Photo by Dana LaceyDavid Beers is disappointed in Canada. “I thought there’d be a lot more Tyees by now,” the feisty publication’s founding editor told an auditorium packed with journo-types on Tuesday. The Tyee was joined by the founders of a small number of Canadian news startups to lead the monthly forum hosted by The Canadian Journalism Foundation. (Read J-Source’s liveblog.)

The evening’s panellists were Beers, Jeff Anders of The Mark (pictured), Open File’s Wilf Dinnick and James Baxter of iPolitics.ca. The Tyee, at 8 years old, has grown past it’s startup days – Beers prefers the term “start-it-up” — but the rest are all brand-spanking new. BNN host Andrea Mandel-Campbell was the event’s moderator, and she pushed the panel to talk strategy and had the four dissect their business models. Her key question for the night: Where’s the money?

No two run their companies exactly the same — you’ll find a grab bag of corporate sponsorships, targeted advertising, angel investors, roll-up-their-sleeves-and-help investors and altruistic donations. Some are even in the black, but barely. Yet the money issue is always nipping at their heels, producing great journalism is their common goal. “News is a conversation about risk and what is possible,” Beers said. “What should you dare to think is possible?”

During the panel, he proposed the four sites — and other new media ventures like them — form a partnership for one-stop shopping for ad space on all the sites, a tactic already employed by small magazines and the Canadian University Press. It also works for J-Source.ca, which occasionally shares its content with The Tyee and PBS Mediashift, and vice versa. It’s collaboration, not competition, that will save us, Beers says. While all four panellists were optimistic about their front-seat views in the evolution of journalism, no one’s quite figured out where the real profits are – yet. One thing’s for sure, Dinnick says: new media are the tugboats to mainstream media’s ocean linear, a symbiotic relationship that should be nurtured should we want to keep both afloat. (This reporter thinks he should have steered clear of Titanic imagery, but you get the point.)

Read J-Source’s liveblog for a more detailed account of the event. Here’s a few of the ideas that were raised during the discussion:

“There’s a lot of great opinion in Canada, but not a lot of reporting.” — James Baxter on why he launched iPolitics.ca.

“Journalism isn’t valued as it should be, especially online.” — Wilf Dinnick on how hard it is to get paid.

“Of the last 1,000 things published on The Mark’s site, 90% weren’t profitable. 10% were. Can we afford to pay everybody? No. Can we do some revenue sharing going forward? Yes.” — Jeff Anders on how to get paid writing for The Mark.

“Write for free to build your reputation, and use your reputation to get paid doing something else.” — David Beers on how to make it as a journalist.

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