By Jay Rosen
At the opening session of Block By Block 2011, “Stories from the field,” moderated by Michele McLellan and myself, the founders of many of the nation’s top born-on-the-web community news sites were asked to testify. We wanted to know what they had learned over the last year and what they felt they needed to learn in the year ahead.
I listened carefully to their replies and here are some of the common themes I heard:
1. Passion (the passion that a founder has, the passion for a community that some people who live in that community has…) cannot be bought and it cannot be faked.
2. Pick your spots. Instead of trying to cover everything and just feeding the daily beast, choose some focus areas: special projects, explainers, investigative specialities, depth journalism.
3. Partnerships with traditional media and other institutions can work out quite well. The local newspaper, local NPR stations, museums, libraries, festivals.
4. Considering becoming a platform, not just a content site. A platform provides a service that others can tap into, like NOWCastSA’s live webcasts of community events.
5. Sustainability is the goal (of course!) but there is no one way to get there. The business model is to have multiple revenue sources and efficiency paths.
6. You may think you know (your community, your potential advertisers, your reach, your “brand”) but something will happen that shows you that you don’t… really.
7. We have to make it way easier for people to contribute, if we’re going to rely on community contributors.
8. We have to get with mobile. We have no choice. And for communities at the other end of affluent, mobile is how most people get online.
9. Supportive spouses can make a huge difference. With their patience, as direct partners in the enterprise, by making the money in the household.