Accelerating excitement

Momentum is building for Spotlight Alberta

I’ve been spending most of my time away from my day job consulting with our growing team of advisors.

David Cohn kicked things off with a quick rundown of suggestions based on his experience in the digital news space, and trends he has been tracking.

His first suggestion was to open up fundraising beyond pure memberships. There may well be keen philanthropists looking to support local investigative news work and who would be willing to support our efforts beyond $10 per month.

Days later, this Nieman Lab article appears in my feed, essentially promoting that same openness to foundation funding.

I’d initially shied away from that approach thinking puritanically about our revenue sources. If we only accept funding from members, our motives will always be pure. David explained that many foundations are willing to support not-for-profit and non-profit journalism with no strings relating to political interests.

I then chatted with Erin Millar from The Discourse. She shares my enthusiasm for this project and in some ways exceeds it.

She has been through the entire cycle of fundraising, hiring, marketing and remarketing. She knows the ins and outs of all aspects of a member-supported newsroom.

My plan of fundraising then hiring is a bit new in the space. Most sites have launched with a skeleton staff to get the content machine running as a live demo of what members could expect if they fund the work. Erin is keen to see how engagement changes with this approach.

That sentiment was shared by Jim Brady, ONA god and digital guru. His work with TBD, Digital First and Billy Penn routinely broke new ground and pushed us forward as an industry. He is eager to see how my plan will resonate in Alberta.

I also had an informal yet riveting Skype call with Jay Rosen. He’s one of the leading thinkers in the space and he is on the bleeding edge of memberships for newsrooms.

My rusty writing hand could barely keep up with his stream-of-consciousness flow of ideas. I’m hoping we can add him as an advisor to the team soon, but he is very busy with pressthink and the Membership Puzzle, the latter of which is one of my top sources for ideas.

I’ll be working closely with Erin and her team from The Discourse to build the digital infrastructure needed to link membership with access to comments, surveys and direct feedback to our team. She will also help us bypass many of the trial-and-error elements in growing our email newsletter and membership base.

While this post feels like a cheap name-drop exercise, it is intended to show that I’m reaching out to the most innovative thinkers in the space to maximize the chances that our plan with exceed our goals.

As I continue to build out the back end of the site, we move closer to formally launching our membership drive. Once everything is ready, expect a celebratory post.

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