Our new SVP & GM Digital Media at NPR, Kinsey Wilson, sent around the following email to a few of us this morning. With permission and thanks, I'm sharing it with you. --Dennis
As you dig into
the morning papers, I'd call to your attention an
interesting article in the NY Times today that describes how small, independent,
not-for-profit local news web sites are springing up around the country --
further evidence of the growing number of players that hope to lay claim to the
local news franchise as papers come under increased financial pressure.
This line in particular caught my attention: "[F]financially, VoiceofSan Diego and its peers mimic public broadcasting, not newspapers. They are nonprofit corporations supported by foundations, wealthy donors, audience contributions and a little advertising."
If they succeed, they could gradually compete for the audience, allegiance and charitable giving that traditionally has sustained public radio. The audience for terrestrial public radio isn't likely to go away anytime soon. But as younger audiences form their media habits and older audiences look for serious local news sources to replace the papers they once relied upon -- something that's happening right now -- sites like these will gain in influence and popularity among our target audience and could eventually pose a threat to the member station franchise.
Local public radio stations are ideally positioned to form alliances with sites like these. The member stations have reach; they have an audience already pre-disposed to quality journalism; and if they want to use it to this end, the ability to drive traffic to these (or co-branded?) endeavors. They also have established relationships with funders, which these sites presumably are just starting to put together. The startup-ups, meanwhile, have the capacity to innovate in ways most stations do not.
In other words, member stations could potentially bring audience and money to the table to help keep these efforts alive; and in the process further develop their reputation and capacity as a source of serious local news. (And NPR, through its API, could provide wider visibility and lift for these efforts).
If half a dozen of the more progressive member stations around the country aligned with the best of these sites on a trial basis, they might create a model that other start-ups and stations could emulate.
In addition to the sites mentioned in Richard Pérez-Peña 's piece, also check out the newly launched Spot.US, which solicits story pitches from individual journalists in the Bay area and asks readers to donate money to support story ideas they think are worthy of further effort. It launched Monday.