Can You Make Money With Local News?

MediaShift Idea Lab posted a great article by David Sasaki last week titled: Can the Knight Legacy Lead to Sustainability? David’s final thought/question in the piece was this:

But is it Sustainable?

The Knight Foundation is single-handedly making citizen media both more serious and more respected by giving financial support to some of the field’s most innovative thinkers.

But is this a sustainable model for the transformation of media? What happens when the News Challenge’s five-year funding period concludes?

All of the News Challenge grantee projects are impressive, innovative, and important, but not a single one is turning a profit, nor do they seem poised to any time soon.

There is a fundamental truth that we are fast approaching — all media should be free. This includes, news, entertainment, public records, etc. Just look at what’s happening in the music industry. The signs are all over the wall…

Subsequently, this belief in freeing the information is driving the traditional news industry into the ground. Controlling the information has always been the key (I think of the classic Redford movie, Sneakers). But the old ways of controlling and distributing the news are falling apart.

The info on the web is so disseminated, that I can get news from pretty much anywhere… so what drives me to get it from any place in particular? At risk of sounding like the corporate-driven, cube-infested, dilbertesque workplace that spawned me — it’s the value-adds.

If I can get news any time, any way, and from any location I want AND (and, folks, that’s a big “and”) also access services (from local businesses) that make my day-to-day life easier, why would I go anywhere else?

The key here is relevance and location. News that matters to me, services that help me around the house, and an online network that makes my life easier right where I live in the real world — these are the exact things that just recently were so explicitly illustrated by Newspaper Next’s news report from the American Press Institute. It was best stated as such:

“The place I go to be part of the fabric of life here [where I live].”

eNeighbors wants to help us get there. The icing on the cake is, yes, we are profitable, and our plan is to continue to be so in greater proportions. That is exactly why we have applied to the Knight News Challenge. We believe our goals and community-oriented nature are in perfect alignment with the Knight Foundation’s vision.

So, to answer David’s question, eNeighbors hopes to break that non-profitablility mold and help lead the way for the next level of online journalism and real-world community.

News Challenge Deadline is today, October 15th

There are three categories for which you can apply to receive a grant from the Knight Foundation: (1) General Open Source, (2) New Business Ventures, and (3) the Young Creators category.

Today is the last day that you can apply for a grant. I would encourage startups, organizations, academic programs, and driven people to apply for this opportunity if you meet the basic criteria. According to their website, you need to:

  1. have strong digital innovation,
  2. use new forms of news or information in the public interest, and
  3. focus on a specific geographic community.

At the time of publishing, only 227 applications have been posted to the Open Category, and 54 to the Young Creators category. The New Business Ventures category is closed, and as a result, we can’t see how many applications have been made.

How about those young creators? Good for you. They represent 35% of the total applicants world-wide. This is reserved for people 25 years and younger. (Funny, I guess I’m a young creator too…just barely.)

eNeighbors has applied to the New Business Ventures category. I wanted to seek funding from the Knight News Challenge because of the obvious alignments between our organizations:

  1. eNeighbors has a strong digital innovation – online social networking for neighborhoods
  2. eNeighbors uses new forms of news/info in the public interest – neighbors participate in contributing community news and information
  3. eNeighbors focuses on specific geographic communities – neighborhoods

I’m hoping to see some more interesting applications to review.