This wiki is running notes by Bill Densmore of the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute on the proceedings of the Chicago Community Trust event: “Advancing Chicago’s News Ecosystem: A Community News Summit.” It took place from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Thurs., Sept. 23, at Loyola University of Chicago. It was the first day of a two-day event, "Block by Block," bringing together more than 70 local online news community (LONC) operators from around the U.S. and Canada. There are missing pieces, as noted, which (because this is a wiki!) we’ll gradually fill in. There are misspelled names. We’ll fix those (if you find a mistake, please fix it!) This gives you a feel for what we heard on Thursday.
- The Twitter hashtag for Thursday's summit was #cnm2010
- The Twitter hashtag for Friday's gathering is #bxb2010
- LIVE VIDEO STREAM
- BLOCK BY BLOCK HOME PAGE (other links)
- LONC tag cloud -- the needs/issues
- 1 Setting the scene: Terry Mazany, Chicago Community Foundation
- 2 Four major studies discussed
- 3 Q-and-A moderated by Thom Clark
- 4 Network analysis of Chicago websites
- 5 Report: News that Matters: An Assessment of Chicago’s Information Landscape
- 6 Realizing Potential: What Chicago’s Online Innovators Need
- 7 Some recommendation to funders and investors
- 8 Wrapping up the day
Setting the scene: Terry Mazany, Chicago Community Foundation
Terry Mazany, CEO, of the Chicago Community Trust opens the afternoon. This morning, the trust held a gathering to look at the problems of obesity and hunger. A key to that is giving people access to the information they need to make better choices.
He says we’re here because of the confluence of two forces: The industry transformation and decline of traditional media and at the same time an extraordinary increase in web-based information resources.
The second reason is our societal transformation in how we access news and use technology. These two changes have elevated community information to the level of a community need. “Prior to that, as a community foundation we could take the news for granted.”
“We would probably have missed the boat on this if it had not been for the Knight Foundation,” says Mazany. He says community foundations – there are 700 of them across the United States – are a great “distribution mechanism” for larger foundations. Knight, he said, framed the need as “about the health of our democracy.”
MacArthur and McCormick foundations in Chicago have a long history of engagement primarily in the journalism area. He says they have been able to tap their expertise to make quality investments across the Chicago media ecosystem, where both major dailies had been into bankruptcy. “We had instant new friends and collaborators,” he said, among people in Chicago, “who had been doing things in isolation.” They then took up the traditional role of the community foundation as a “convenor.”
“When we entered this we had the big idea that we could be it,” said Mazany. A $6 million proposal to be a community proposal was what the proposed. Fortunately, he says, it wasn’t funded. And they went back to what they do best – assessing the needs of the community with the help of the Community Media Workshop. With that, they are now able to do good grantmaking with quality theory leading to practice. “There are lots of actors out there with this enormous ferment of creativity,” says Mazany. It’s taken energy to “flesh out the contours of this ecosystem.”
The key challenge says Is it possible to help with a transformation that, unlike other transformations, is inclusive – “to enable people to get connected, stay connected and . . . not leave anybody behind.”
Four major studies discussed
Today’s session includes discussion of for major studies:
- The New News 2010
- News that Matters
- Realizing Potential
- Linking Audiences to News
Tom Clark, director of Community Media Workshop, is now describing the New News 2010 study. Clark says the sense of crisis in Chicago media has dissipated a bit over last year. The New News 2010 study is in its fullest form online (LINK) although there is a print version handed out here at this gathering.
Emily Culbertson Community Media Workshop’s lead researcher on the New News 2010 study now describes the project, results and outcomes.
“There are more voices being more impactful in the local conversation,” study subject Brad Flora, of WindyCitizen.com, says in a video Culbertson shows about the study. “They are bleeding off a lot of those people to Internet sources.
A chart: How do news sites describe themselves. Forty-eight percent describe themselves as blogs, 44 percent as niche news, 28 percent “your categories stick,” and so fort. In terms of content provided, original reporting and news are provided by 91 percent and 100 percent of the respondents. Eighty seven percent provide opinion. The next big category, at 57 percent, is events.
The survey covered twice as many sites in 2010 as in 2009 but the types covered were similar (SCRIBE’S NOTE: Is this suggesting the ecosytem is stabilizing a bit?) The topics covered include stories about community leadership development, which Culbertson notes as important. There are a dozen Latino-focused websites which participated (Chicago has a large Spanish-speaking community).
Clark now describes how the survey found neighborhoods are represented. The city is divided into about 77 neighborhood communities for the survey purposes. There were (only) 16 communities areas out of 77 that seemed to have no one covering them. He says they were “primarily nestled ironically in the far northwest and the far southwest sides of Chicago.” They are trying to find people covering those neighborhoods. There are onsite websites in those 61 communities who claim the are covering. They don’t have a way to verify that.
Clark defines “coverage” as “who is covering the redevelopment of the Montclair area, for example, because the newspaper that used to do it doesn’t exist anymore and the Chicago Tribune doesn’t have enough resources to do so.”
For those who know Chicago, Clark says Rogers Park was the “most blogged” neighborhood in 2009, and Uptown took that mantle in 2010. Both are on the city’s far north side.
Another survey respondent: Mandy Burrell Booth of the Metropolitan Planning Council: “People need to talk up the work they are doing . . . because we have these networked communication tools so it is very easy to do that and if you’re not doing it you are essentially taking yourself out of the conversation . . . I see it as my responsibility to do it . . . we have to get our own story out there if it is going to get out.”
Culbertson says the study asked about funding sources? Forty-five percent said advertising, 38 percent “coins from piggy bank,” 31 percent for-profit companies, 25 percent other, 21 percent non-profit org. Four out of 10 sites said no one gets paid for their work and 75 percent report that no one has their health insurance covered.
They found that 78 percent of the unique visitors in the Chicago news ecosystem were visiting the sites of metropolitan dalies, and the other 22 percent were visiting everyone else. They used compete.com to measure the traffic because it is open and transparent, but they recognized it is problematic for measuring small sites. They are looking at different ways to measure traffic in the future.
“Online news sites from metro dailies continue to see growth in their traffic while the revenues from their print product continues to fall,” says Culbertson. “So there continues to be that demand for news online.”
Q-and-A moderated by Thom Clark
SCRIB’S NOTE – There’s a lot of detail I missed on the first pass of this. I’ll try to get the slide deck from Rich Gordon and link to it so you can fill in.
One question asked: ‘’Why do you do what you’re doing even though you aren’t getting paid?’’
Because of adoption of open source software, operators are sharing a lot rather than competition. Online news operators may be more quickly adopting new apps.
- Anthony Moor from Yahoo observes: You can guarantee you can get a site up, but you can’t guarantee distribution. Did you come to any conclusions about how hyperlocal sites could increase their reach.
Clark says many of the hyperlocal sites are kitchen-table created, if you build it they will come. Some sites are working on building traffic. In another report they talk about the need to pay attention to site design and audience metrics.
- Culbertson says they survey didn’t ask about distribution channels. A lot of people volunteered they are using Twitter, Facebook, email and syndication technologies. Her observation is that “you are seeing a lot of social news sites using the tools that are available to gain distribution and build relationships.”
Network analysis of Chicago websites
Rich Gordon and Zachary Johnson from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University and a colleague are now discussing their “Linking Audience to News,” study, the second of four. Joining them in the room is Noshir Contractor, in Sacramento, Calif., “Skyping-in” from Sacramento, Calif.
”This kind of work has never been done on a new news ecosystem,” says Gordon. He says the final report isn’t out yet, but will be soon.
Contractor talked about network theory. A fascinating point he made: Strong links in a network may not be as important to innovation as weak links – people you seldom run into. That’s because you are more likely to receive a new idea from a weak link than from your regular strong links, which tend to exchange the same information among each other.
The Northwestern researchers took the 121 sites identified by the Community Media Workshop and did analysis and came up with a total 368 sites, including those, which comprise the new news ecosystem in Chicago. A primary criterion to include a site was that it was listed by at least two other sites in the network. They then began to categorize the sites.
Johnson says they then categorized sites in three types: Geo-publisher, niche publisher and a third “other” category. (CHECK THAT). They then tried to define websites which are “authorities” and those that are “hubs.” The authorities are sites that many other sites link to. The hubs are sites that link to many other sites. They found that organizations and institutions, and a mix of other sites, are top authorities. Top five authorities:
Top five authorities:
- another one (GET)
- another one (GET)
Top five hubs:
- Gapersblock.com – a web-only micropublisher
- Badatsports.com -- About the arts community in Chicago
- Saic.edu – School of the Art Institute
- Uchicago.edu – University of Chicago
- Macfound.org -- MacArthur Foundation
Flow betweenness measures the number of paths passing through each site, betweeness measures the number of shortest paths passing through each site. Intermediaries are sites that are deeply embedded between otherwise unconnected sites (high flow betweeness). Switchboards are sites that connect users to each other.
Top 5 intermediaries:
Top 5 intermediaries
eigenvector centrality: The key ingredient in search algorithms
Gordon says “it’s the secret sauce in Google.”
- A site’s centrality is a function of the centralities of the sites it links to
- Sites with high eigenvector centrality tend to be considered “prestigious”
- These sites are linked to by the “most linked-to sites” in the network
“We’re taking about the sites that are most linked to, by the most linked to sites,” says Gordon.
Top 5 authorites
There are 65,000 links in the network. They eliminated sites that didn’t have at least 65 links between each other. This reveals the following clusters: Music, NewCityChicago, Sports, Tribune Co., and Micropublisher core.
They then filtered to discover a handful of sites that bridge otherwise disconnected regions. Among them are ChicagoNow (Tribune Co.), Chicago Reporter.
Content by category:
Legacy, legacy affiliated, micropublisher, natural brand, organization/institution, web services.
- Question from Jeremy Iggers: Asks where websites should put links in order to get the maximum benefit for both parties.
Gordon says Google has hundreds of pieces in their algorithms that they don’t disclose. He says links on the front page get seen most quickly as well as pages that get a lot of traffic. So ideally you want to be linked from someone’s home page.
Report: News that Matters: An Assessment of Chicago’s Information Landscape
‘’An assessment of Chicago’s information landscape’’
- Vivian Vahlberg of the Chicago Community Trust and Rachel David Mersey of Northwestern University next present this report is of a study about how well citizens are being served in Chicago. It took its cue from the Knight Commission on the Information Needs of Communities report.
- Are critical needs being met
- Identify the critical gaps and deficiencies that exist
- Develop a barometer for repeating this over time
- To examine how the information needs and experiences of the public differne from those of leaders.
Mersey takes over the narrative. The conducted 800 phone interviews for 20 minutes each – including cell-phone users and Spanish-language (9%) respondents. There were 720 landlines and 80 cell-phone interviews. They also conducted three 60-minute focus groups of low-income participants – 20 people in each group.
They then conducted a parallel study of community leaders including 250 participants. These included CCT grant recipients, Leadership Greater Chicago fellows, Catalyst and Chiago Report subscribers, list of the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club, the Metropolitan Planning Commission and others.
Vahlberg says Chicago “is by no means a media desert” and has lots of media – 48 TV stations, 479 daily, weeklky and monthly print publications, 132 radio stations, and more than 153 online outlets – over 900 media outlets altogether. Included in the mix are some 230 ethnic-media outlets – newspapers, radio-tv network stations and the like. “There is no shortage of news and information in the Chicago ecosphere – the question is whether all that information is satisfactorily addressing our needs.”
They asked people what their most important source of information was. Thirty-five percent said newspapers/magazines, 33 percent was TV, and the rest were below that. But for neighborhood information, it is 44% newspapers and magazines, 13 percent by word of mouth from other people. For job-related information, it is 15 percent newspapers/magazines and 31 percent is online media. Seventeen percent is specialized media. For special-interest information it is a splintered filed. The only one of any real size – 29 percent – is online media.
Of the respondents, Mersey said, 84 percent of the public respondents had Internet access and 100 percent of the leadership respondents had access.
Vahlberg says they asked if respondents have cell phones. Of them, 86 percent said they had cell phones, but only a third of those have smart phones which access the Internet.
“We also have some good news about the ecosystem,” said Mersey: Eighty-seven percent say they feel well informed generally. They say they feel pretty well informed about certain topics, including issues affecting the Chicago area (79), special interests (79), neighborhood (69), job related, business or professional issues (66).
The respondents also felt they were “able to access” information they need to form opinions about local problems (84), to cope with emergencies (83), to learn about practical health concerns (80), to learn about government programs and services (70), or to find out what’s for sale (67).
Another finding: Libraries help people to find information. Eighty-seven percent of respondents agreed that “the local library does a good job of helping people find what they need.” However, there is a 9% uptick in agreement on that question in suburbs versus the city.
The ecosystem problems
‘’Vahlberg not talks about the problems.’’
- ’’Inadequate political information’’ – 51% of the public agrees they don’t know enough about candidates or issues to vote. Half the leaders said this, too. Also 42% said they don’t know much about the challenges facing the region and 48% think local media does not do a good job keeping watch on state and local government.
“That kind of scary that such a high percentage of the public apparently feels the media is failing in this core area,” says Vahlberg. But she says there could be reasons besides the media’s failings for this – including the length of ballots.
- ’’Significant unhappiness with media a coverage’’ – Some 49% said they “media does not cover issues I care about very well.” And 43% said “nobody covers what happens in my community very well.” Leaders were more critical than the public on these two questions.
- ’’Difficult processing and coping with information available’’ – “A significant percentage of the public is having real trouble with the information out there. Comments like: Overwhelmed, do not have enough time and cannot tell what is important. In effect, peoples’ relationships with the news are “distressed,” the survey directors said.
- ’’Some better served than others’’ – The more education and income people have, the better tan can navigate the ecosystem and the happier they are with coverage. “That’s not surprising, but the differences are really stark,” says Mersey. Only 50% of high-school graduates say they can navigate the new news ecosystems vs. 69% of those with a college education.
Those who are happy are college educated, in north or northwest suburbs, or central or north areas of the city, with incomes of at least $50,000 a year and – white. Those having the most trouble are those with a high-school education or less, the south and west area sof the city, with incomes below $30,000 a year, Latino and African-American groups and those who don’t speak English at home.
Those with lower incomes don’t feel as well informed, have trouble navigating the ecosystem, are unhappy with coverage of their communities, are less civically engaged, are less tech-empowered and rely more on local TV. Those having a hard time with the system also don’t enjoy keeping up with the news, are not civically engaged, rely on their neighbors for the news, not media or Internet and are not tech-enabled. “They just rely on their neighbors or turn to people they talk to,” says Mersey.
- ’’Not enough access to information about others’’ -- Vahlberg says researchers found 64% of respondents want more opportunities to hear the views of other people about community issues. Yet, 70% feel they have plenty of opportunities to make their own views known about community issues. (THRIVE) “People feel very comfortable that their views will be heard but they are longing to hear the views of others,” says Vahlberg.
In looking at the leadership survey group, Vahlberg and Mersey found they differ from the public in many ways. They get a daily stream of information from many sources, are more critical of the ecosystem and are tech-enabled. “They describe getting a daily feed of the information they need from a wide variety of sources,” says Vahlberg. Leaders are far more critical of today’s information ecosystem than the public is.
They also looked at information literacy. Leaders are savvier about what information to trust. People with Internet literacy training are more likely to successfully navigate the ecosystem and get the information they need about issues and problems. “So that really buttresses the case for continuing and expanding various literacy programs that are out there,” says Vahlberg.
Things to work on include inadequate political information, unhappiness with media coverage, (GET THE REST OF THESE POINTS)
Strengths: Wealth of sources, widespread Internet access, most people feel informed, most can get the info they need, libraries help, leaders have special sources and information-literacy training helps.
“People get the daily information they need pretty well but is the information they need as citizens to make communal decisions is where we do not fare as well,” says Vahlberg.
The full report will be up at cct.org in the next month: “News that Matters: An Assessment of Chicago’s Information Landscape,” from the Chicago Community Trust.
- Q: What about studying the quality of news?
A: Vahlberg says they didn’t really study that, should do so in the future. Mersey says there is a lot of debate about what constitutes “quality.”
- Q: Real question is usefulness of the information, not the quality of the information?
A: Vahlberg: The questions of satisfaction and: Do you get what you need? Are important. She thinks the difficulty of navigation is a big issue. Many news products are great for news junkies but are not very good for people who are new to the system, new to the area. They require too much work – so people tune out.
- Q: What about the needs of low-income people and coverage of violence?
Mersey: What came up over and over again with low-income people was wanting hyperlocal information about what’s going on in their neighborhood. Quality is judged by: Are you covering what matters to me?
Vahlberg: Half of one focus group was talking about violence and coverage of violence. “I live in an area where I hear a gunshot, I want to know about that gunshot so I know where to walk or not walk,” she says. “The other thread I heard was when they cover violence in my neighborhood it is always that there is a shooting,” says Vahlberg. “Thye said: We want to know why, who was shot, have they found the perpetrator?”
Realizing Potential: What Chicago’s Online Innovators Need
“We have a lot of cookie-jar financed sites out there,” says Thom Clark. The nation’s third largest media market has a lot of assets besides this online ecosystem, including several journalism schools, online innovators like Threadless and Groupon. “But other things are not just labors of love, the are starting to figure things out.”
“What more can we do to sustain these efforts besides more grants?” asks Clark.
So the final study is: “Realizing Poential: What Chicago’s Online Innovators Need.”
Nora Ferrell used to be in Minnesota at a new-media think tank. She found there are as many interesting experiments in Chicago as there were in Minnesota. They interviewed online news publishers in other cities and sites that have been successful elsewhere around the country and surveyed a group of Chicago news publishers to see if they shared the challenges and concerns heard in the focus groups – 71 responded.
Five key areas where support is needed from foundations:
- Discover ways to make more money through advertising or sponsorships -- “This is what keeps people awake at night, what they worry about and what they want help with,” says Ferrell.
- Respondent Susanne McBride: “The real challenge is going to be figuring out the economic model, that’s the holy grail problem for us.” She says successful sites will be the ones that leverage existing resources, such as ChicagoTalks – which is affiliate with a college. She has started AustinTalks, too. “We’re going to have to figure out how to sell ads, do sponsorships.”
- Help to better undestand and grow audiences
- Networking to keep news sites connected with each other
- Foundations can help the visibility of online news in Chicago
- Inform national policy makers about the work that LONCs do
ChicagoNow says they are breaking even, but other sites are only covering a third or so of their costs. Options: Grants, consulting, venture capital. Forty-one percent of the 71 sites identified generating revenue as their top concern; 51% said generating traffic was their top concern. “It is not sustaining itself financially, we heard that over and over and over,” says Ferrell. Many sites said they didn’t know how to approach advertisers, hired sales reps and still had no luck.
The emergence of TribLocal and Patch.com are sources of concern for indigenous local sites because Patch is hiring reporters and seem to have the ability to sell regional advertising. “Many people indicated that they would be interested in participating in an advertising network,” says Ferrell. The Chicago Community Trust is exploring helping to establish that.
People want to collaborate on aggregating technology, content and advertising networks.
Second big challenge to revenue: Visibility
The second big challenge to revenue generation is visibility, building audience and driving traffic. Sixty percent of the site respondents said people in their target audience didn’t know about the site. Businesses didn’t always know who they were and what they were doing. One in three said they needed to understand their own sites better.
Most of the local news sites are not mobile ready. “This surprised us and it is something that sites have to move forward on,” says Ferrell.
There were seven areas most frequently identified where people need help:
Help connecting with funders investors, content partnerships, meetings with other news producers to share tips, an investigative-reporting fund, an ad network, and connecting with other Chicago-area entrepreneurs.
They want training in building audiences, driving traffic, seeking grants, understanding metrics and using social media.
“It is revenue content and not editorial content that people are worried about and need help on,” says Ferrell.
Some recommendation to funders and investors
Ferrell listed these recommendations to funders from the Community Media Workshop based on the four studies presented:
- Online news sites need help selling advertising and online revenue. This could involve setting up ad networks, connecting with funders.
- Understand online news sites to understand and connect with their audiences.
- Recognize and reward the work of local online news sites. This could be an award ceremony.
- Build opportunities for better relationships between sites, funders and investors.
- Help online news publishers network and share information with each other.
- Support an investigative reporting and community issues fund for local online news communities.
Philanthropy should be funding journalism that can’t be funded in other ways.
- Q: (Bill Densmore): As to sustainability today, we’ve heard about more focus on advertising, on sponsorships and convincing foundations to fund. What about public funding as a “public good”, or direct support from the users of journalism via subscriptions or per click?
A: Culbertson: Public funding wasn’t a question they asked, because they couldn’t imagine foundations involved in a political effort to get public funding for a public good. As for subscriptions, there is some discussion about memberships.
A: Clark: Historically there hasn’t been much interest in subscriptions or direct pay but in the last 30 days there has been a heightened interest in part because the Chicago News Cooperative later in the fall is going to put some of their content “behind a paywall.”
What will foundations fund?
Jan Shaffer: “I think people are not being creative enough and I think there is an opportunity approach a lot of high net worth people around the country,” says Shaffer. “It is not just grants as a source.”
In surveys: “A majority of people said yes, even if my site is not profitable in two or three years I’m going to continue to operate it,” says Ferrell.
Wrapping up the day
- Wrapup by Vivian Vahlberg comments on a couple of things. Calendar Oct. 19, Susan Mernit will be in town to do a session for Chicago area sites on using social media.
- Sally Duros talks about the idea of “stewarship” and the idea of “how do you own this, how do you love it, how do you thrive it.”
- Valhberg calls on Mark Hallett: What surprised you and puzzled you the most today?
- Hallett’s reply: “We’re in an incredible moment.” He just read Jon Funabiki’s piece about how journalists are the new struggling artists. “A middle-class profession is becoming a labor of love . . . and that’s a painful thing. But we’re also at a moment of incredible innovation and when you look at the readiness of groups to partnership where partnerships were not happening five years ago . . . that’s incredibly powerful and something to have a lot of hope in.” The other things for hope is the role of the universities and other institutions that have a lot of internal strengths and skills. And then there is the technology, people passionate about journalism and storytelling and the other things happening in technology, there is a lot of reason for help. “It’s a down moment but there are a whole lot of things happening.”
- Alison Shawley, what did you take away (she’s from WBEZ):
- She was most appreciative of the study about different parts of communities and what their needs are. A good portion of the community is still not informed and that sets up a challenge for the future.
- Mike Doyle, what do you come away with. What has been ticking his brain is it is a little depressing for a lot of people in the room, if you raised the idea that a citizen journalist could be a news provider, a lot of journalists were grousing about that. Last year there was less grousing. Now, it is true that in some respects may be becoming a labor of love. “That really struck me here in the last four years.”
- Mindy Favor, Chicago Youth Voices Network: “I was saddened a bit to hear the populations that Chicago’s youth organizations are serving are so undernourished.” The convention paradigms of journalism need shaking up. Technology is not sufficient. “I am thinking about cultural forms people have for sharing information and how we need to kind of invigorate that … how can we break open those traditional paradigms of communicating.”
- Jan Schaffer of J-Lab: It is OK to run these sites as an act of civic volunteereism. “That’s OK and I think should be validated as a model.” It is also about creating ad-serving platforms that don’t swipe most of the revenue before it goes in your pocket. Also we need to rethink and articulate both for your audiences and funders what it is you are providing – it is not always journalism. You need to be able to define it much more precisely.
- Aldon Lowery: Chicago Reporter – What struck him the most was the use of data in social networking. He was interested to know there was such a plethora of linkages out there but that the Chicago online ecosystem was still not as connected as it should be or could be. He was surprised that people still found they weren’t getting enough political information. (SCRIBE’S NOTE -- There could be a distinction here between political coverage and civic issues coverage?)
- Barbara Popovich: Looking about how all Chicago can participate. She would like to see the philanthropic community in more of a leadership role. “I think discriminatory practices are already underway.” Issues of public channels need to be addressed.
- Lynn Lanson: Wants to know more about what local neighborhoods want to read about. They cover education.
- John (formerly WBEZ): There hasn’t been a lot of consideration about psychographic cells or the human nature involve din all this. There is an assumption that all people are the same and are equally inquisitive and have the same desire for information. He thinks that’s not true and we are seeing what happens when you unpack the vertically integated media and let people make their own decisions about what they want. They want bus-tracker. He could create Pulitzer Prize-winning coverage of Portage Park, but it might get 200 hits a week – there just isn’t a lot of interest in that. “Some of what we’re talking about here will need to be subsidized or in some way assisted because it will never sustain itself and that is I think one of the things that has been hidden in all this with newspapers and network television, the real work of journalism was paid for by advertisers who wanted to reach people who wanted ot know about celebrity news.”
- Rich Gordon from Medill School: Different people in the room are defining the problem differently. What are more important. He thought of four dimensions: Is the problem the supply of news or the demand for news. “I wonder if the problem isn’t that we need to work on the demand side?” Is the second big problem the audience or the revenue? And should we care if a website is for profit, not for profit or a labor of love. There needs to be some consensus about some of those things.
- Laura Frank runs iNews in Denver, an investigative news network. Here’s some information she just got from an executive of one of the leading news services in the world. Their enterprise stories got 10 times the traffic of their regular news.
- Ralph Brason: Journalism has been incredibly compeitor. When GapersBlog and WindyCity came on, people cheered.
- Tracy Scheden, editorial director of Chicago Now. She has been at Tribune Co. and launching site. She has met everyone in this room. She has had her foot in the newsroom at Tribune. “There are so many ideas in our city.”
- The fellow who runs WindyCity finds it depressing what people read from the server logs. “I am of the school that we have a serious demand problem but I don’t know that it is a problem, people want what they want and maybe we have to give it to them.” He sites Groupon as an amazing company that is hiring people from places like Crains. “We are creating things for an audience and if they don’t want what you are doing then it is our problem. . . . Stuff that is quick, stuff that is fast, that solves a problem, that puts a smile on my face.”
- Andrew Huff: GapersBlock: “What we hope is that they will also read the hard-hitting thing. … Our philosophy toward what is news is what’s interesting to us.” They believe their writers are representational. “Some of it is going to be the meat and some of it is going to be the dessert and what we want to find is a good mix.”
- Anna Karpolofki, a Chicago blogger, on the demand issue. “If you present information in an interesting and digestible way … and if you explain it to them in a way they understand, how it matters to them or impact their tax dollars or schools, to how it affects their lives then it will be just as important to a lot of people as the CTA bus tracker.” Stories that are unique get the most traffic.
- Steve Rhodes of Beachwood Reporter: Before he started his website he covered politics for Chicago Magazine. The covers that sold well off the newsstand. “I’ve never believed the models are broken; I think they are just staring us in the face . . . there’s only going to be X-number of bloggers who are going to be able to be employed doing that.”
- Chicago success stories: Real Clear Politics, Pitchford, 531.