Notes on Ann Imse-Dave Gordon phone conversation 3-27-13


1.  (Ann)  Funding is the biggest problem facing non-profit startups – every thriving start-up has had an angel willing to support it (often in six figures), at least at the beginning.

2.  (Ann)  Look for funding before you launch – after that, the journalists will be too busy producing journalism to have time for fund-raising. . . and most journalists aren’t the best people to look for funding, anyway. You need people who are great at selling – the stories, the product, the idea.

3.  (Dave)  The Chippewa Valley Post project in Eau Claire hopes to make use of a pool of former journalists – many now in PR – with an itch to “get back in harness” periodically, to go after untold local stories.

4.  (Ann) Volunteers are very important – but be sure to have a sign-up list of projects that can (or should) be done, and a due date for each one to insure (as much as possible) that they actually get finished. Also, if all the volunteers report to one person, that person will quickly get overwhelmed.  See if you can form teams.

5.  (Dave) The CVP project leadership is also committed to making sure that all material – whether produced by people with journalism backgrounds, citizen journalists or students – is edited to a professional standard.

6.  (Ann) There really are no successful existing business models for news operations – there are some hyper-local sites (e.g., the West Seattle blog) that pull in enough advertising and other revenue to support one person, from their focus on a tight geographic area. Among sites focused on larger areas, the Texas Tribune seems to be faring the best, and they had something like $5 million in capital to start. The low cost of advertising on Google and Craigslist makes it impossible to make any reasonable amount of money selling ads (that’s what is killing newspapers).  We need different sources of revenue for journalism.

7.  (Dave) One possible model is the consumer cooperative ownership approach taken by Tom Stites’ Banyan Project in Haverhill, MA (see   Another is The Rapidian in Grand Rapids, MI (see

8.  (Ann) Think about who the customer is – is the viewers of the Website, or foundations or other funding sources who care most about the size of the audience you can attract to your site and others to which you’re linked.

9.  (Dave) What I hope to take away from this conference is ideas that have worked for other start-ups (re: operations and especially re: funding) as well as learning which ideas haven’t worked (and why) so we don’t spend time reinventing square wheels.

10.  (Ann) What I hope to take away is a group of people in Colorado who care about journalism and want to do something about it. Colorado Public News has the framework for them. And I’m happy to give my knowledge about starting a news operation to people from other areas, like Dave.

11.  (Ann, with full agreement from Dave)  Re: 2018, what we would most hope to see is that people become willing to pay the costs of journalism that’s done well.

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