Can 1,000 true fans make a living for journalists?

Journalists and niche sites looking for a revenue model are just a peek around the corner from what looks like some workable answers. If you are conversing with your audience in a way that is relevant to them, and you ask them for support they will be there. That is if the principle of 1,000 true fans proves true for news as for other kinds of bloggers, curators and synthesizers.

Obviously, the power of passionate followers is not news to folks like Maria Popova and her Brain Pickings as Felix Salmon points out in his recent post for Reuters. And Andrew Sullivan, in a much reported move, recently went public with The Daily Dish. My Continue reading Can 1,000 true fans make a living for journalists?

New reward — “Get our Homicide Data!” a smart idea hits the real world on Kickstarter

Crime-Scene-Tape3NOTE: I don’t know exactly what happened but this post was up and was kicked down along with the rest of my site. The Homicide KickStarter project was successfully funded Sept. 13 by 1,110 backers who pledged $47,450 total. As it turns the founders didn’t get any bites from newsrooms that wanted to buy their  homicide data crunching services, but the following items did sell. 

Pledge $500 ore more.
4 Backers Limited (6 of 10 left)

Lunch with Homicide Watch founding editor and 2013 Nieman-Berkman fellow Laura Amico at Harvard University in Cambridge, MA.

Pledge $1,000 or more

 1 Backer Limited (29 of 30 left)

Year in Review Sponsor. You get a preview of our 2012 Year in Review, plus a skype chat with the reporters putting it together, plus a sponsorship message, link and image on the splash page. This sponsorship won’t expire. You’ll also receive the entire collection of Year in Review stories packaged as a ebook.

Pledge $5,000 or more

 1 Backer Limited (4 of 5 left)

The Homicide Watch team will guest teach a class or lecture for an audience of your choice.

Looks like some folks with money see value in what Homicide Watch can teach them about being innovative in journalism.
Read my Huffington Post column on Homicide Watch.

 A One Year Student Reporting Lab within Homicide Watch DC by Homicide Watch » New Reward: Get Our Data! — Kickstarter.

This provokes some questions. The big resistance by government to opening data back when I was in government was that data was a potential revenue source for government. Of course, they were not necessarily thinking of crime data in this way, but other types of data was considered to be very valuable and government was making big money by selling it. Now here’s a new groups selling it, so how is that different?  so

Back in June, we published a six-month review of homicides in 2012: Decreases in Gun, Domestic Violence, at Forefront of 6-month Homicide Decline.

The story, which included a map and summation of half a year’s stats, took us about four hours to complete. We never had to file a FOIA. We just asked questions and our database started pouring out answers.

  • How many murders have happened this year, compared to this time last year?
  • Who were the youngest and oldest victims?
  • How many cases have at least one suspect under arrest?
  • What is the racial and gender makeup of victims (and suspects)?
  • Where did most homicides happen?

These are questions every news organization should be able to answer. We collect this information as part of our reporting process and store it in our custom-built database. Now you can use the same data.

For every victim and suspect, we collect a name, age, race and gender. For victims, we also record a date of death, homicide method (shooting, stabbing, etc), place of death (hospital or at the scene) and incident location. For suspects, we record arrest dates and case status.

If you work for a news organization, think about how long it would take to gather all of this information.

We’ll export the data at your request, so you can ask in September (when this campaign ends) or in January (if you want two calendar years) or any time later.


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Narrowcasts showcase creativity on social Web

The social Web challenges me to get out of my way and to think anew about whatever it is that I am doing – whether it is washing dishes or crafting a Tweet. But still it’s easy to get stuck in a mindset that values fast and efficient over fun and meandering. It’s a times like these that I go mingle with the creatives to recharge with what’s new and exciting. It’s in these creative narrowcasts where I find the passion of fandom unleashing the potential of the social Web.

If you don’t get off Facebook much, you might want to meander around Kickstarter and see what’s playing front page. Your friends or your kids have probably sent you to this service that provides a great set of tools — from video to messaging to marketing advice — to help you fundraise for your project. There’s one caveat. You have a deadline for raising your nut and if you don’t make it, you’re out. A stroll around Kickstarter is always amazing , often moving and usually inspiring. Seeing others creations might give you some ideas for your own.

This week, I stumbled upon a Kickstarter project: Good Ol’ Freda. Freda Kelly was the secretary for The Beatles from the early days at the Cavern Club until 1970. She’s still a secretary and until now has been mum about her life with the fab four. Now she’s opened up her scrapbooks to a filmmaker and they are looking to raise $50,000 by Nov. 12 for their film project. Shes offering all kinds of goodies in exchange for your donation.

Another place to easily get lost in a wonderland is YouTube. And not just in the old music video section. There’s real talent at work here making excellent niche TV shows that are better than the best of Hollywood, precisely because they are so deeply engaging with their audiences. A fan girl friend recently pointed me toward Issa Rae’s “The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl,” which Rae creates and stars in. The production values and acting are very good. But the writing is superb and funny.

Or if you are feeling geeky, you can head on over to the Twit netcast network, “Netcasts you love from people you trust.” Here you’ll find some inspiration for that underused conference room, that yoga studio that’s empty during the day or the slow time at the café in the afternoon. Set up a stage and some talkative folks and you have a TV show. OK. The folks on This Week in Google aren’t every day people — they are some of the Internet’s most prominent thinkers — but you never know what talent lives in your building or up the block.

I was bungling around on Facebook and found actor friend Don Bender is involved in a new online theaterical production by Jamil Khoury, Silk Road Rising, which he says is engaging theater onstage and online around important issues. His play, Mosque Alert, is about “Two suburban American families living in Naperville, IL -one Christian, the other Muslim- find their lives torn apart by a proposal to build a new mosque in their community.”

Khoury says:

In the hopes of generating deeper engagement around this issue, I have designed a ten-step, interactive, on-line, new play development process that will assist me in developing and writing my play “Mosque Alert.” Viewers are encouraged to both influence and assist me as I pen this new play.

My ten step artistic process allows each participant to act as co-creator throughout the entire development cycle. I like to think of it as a spiritual convening of the individual with the art.

Each of these is a narrowcast co-creation with a passionate audience. It’s the way the future of the Internet is rolling out. There are millions of ideas blossoming. Yours could be one of them. If you know who your people are, you can find your idea. It can be as simple to execute [the writing wasn’t simple] as a humorous tweetalogue like Dan Sinker’s Mayor Emanuel, which started as an anonymous satire of then Chicago Mayoral candidate Rahm Emanuel and ended up as a book. Or it can be as elaborate as a traveling global round robin musical like Playing for Change, which made its name with Stand by Me. Take some time to stroll around and fire your imagination. Let us know what you find and most important what you and your colleagues dream up for yourselves. We’d love to hear about it.

Sally Duros loves to find out-of-the-way online adventures to write about. She is a social journalist and digital storyteller, whom you can connect with on  and twitter at saduros.
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Measuring journalism’s impact

To supplement a conversation we are having on Block by Block Resource Network on Facebook about how to measure impact of a newsroom, here’s some thoughts that recently flew by on a recent Carnival of Journalism thread.

Jessica Binsch, Digital Journalist:

Hi Carnies, how much do we love the fact that one of our jcarn-topics will now be explored in more depth by the New York Times? They got funding from the Knight-Mozialla News challenge to research a better metric for measuring journalism, which Greg proposed as a topic a few months back. Not surprisingly, he’s also behind this attempt. Writes Aron Pilhofer: “The project our Knight-Mozilla fellow will help tackle was hatched in January during a bus ride to the Austin airport with news brainiac (and karaokaholic) Greg Linch. He had just written a terrific post on his blog, The Linchpen, about the need for more sophisticated metrics to measure the success or failure of journalism online. I’d been thinking about the same problem, but Greg crystalized the challenge and the opportunity perfectly.In his words: “So, what if we measured journalism by its impact? (…)The ideal outcome would be a suite of open-source tools, techniques and best practices that, in aggregate, help all of us understand readers better and enhance the impact of our journalism. At a bare minimum, we hope to start asking the right questions.”

Denise Cheng, Journalism Accelerator [?]:

This is awesome! There seems like a lot of overlap between what NYT proposes to do and what Joy Mayer explored during her Reynolds fellowship.

She interviewed many journalists and technologists to triangulate a definition of engagement, and in spring 2011, she and Reuben Stern convened around 30 practitioners from all over the country to survey different engagement tactics, how they were beginning to measure those or how they’d flesh out those metrics. It led to a white paper. It’s such a great spring board that I hope Aron and Greg tap her for her insights.


Sally Duros, Indie journalist:

I have been saying this all along. I don’t think advertising is all of the equation for funding journalism, which is “birthing” itself right now. I don’t think journalism really knows what it is.  I’m not sure the world knows what journalism is! As I wrote last week in a post about SEO …. 

Local news is about telling stories  to inform, educate and ultimately help build stronger connections in a community. Its simpler for content marketers. Content marketers are using the tactics of newsrooms — storytelling — to attract clients for something they do.  While newsrooms are using their storytelling expertise to attract clients  — businesses, churches, theaters, restaurants — to help build a platform for more storytelling through community news, ads, events and more. So, once again, I am right! 🙂

Jan Schaffer, JLab: 

Aron’s interests ring true with us at J-Lab and echo some of the frustrations we surfaced in our “Engaging Audiences”  report and suggest there might be a correlation between impact and genuine audience engagement: key takeawaysSocial media connectors such as Facebook and Twitter were highly valued, but they were primarily used to alert users to new stories or information. New analytical tools gave these news startups some useful data, but survey respondents said their top metric for measuring engagement was still website usage – unique visitors and page views. Many expressed dissatisfaction with the information they get.“We feel these numbers only give us part of the information we need,” said one respondent. “We’re interested not just in breadth of engagement but more in depth of engagement.”Even though data on depth and stickiness of audience engagement were missing, creative ideas were not. In more than 1,300 open-ended comments, respondents described many resourceful strategies they are using to involve their audiences in community issues and information.Many of these ideas extend beyond conventional definitions of engagement as audience interactions with content. At least four types of engagement surfaced in the survey responses, but how well the respondents optimized these engagement strategies varied by organization.

They include:

  • Engagement as outreach, driving users to consume content.
  • Engagement as reaction, inviting users to comment, share, like and chat.
  • Engagement as stakeholder participation, getting users to contribute stories, time, funding.
  • Engagement as civic participation, activating audience members to address community issues.

Sally Duros, Indie journalist:

Engagement as civic participation, activating audience members to address community issues.

Thanks for this, Jan. So much to read!   It is this last point that always grabs my attention as I think about engagement. In classical marketing, you can talk all you want, spread the word etc, but what is treasured is the outcome, moving a customer to act, to buy. In journalism, talking about, sharing the news is part of the equation but what is the desired outcome? In my thinking, it is to get community members to engage with each other “on the ground” and to act on the ground, about the things they care about in community – from the new restaurant on the corner to the schools to the trash pickup. Journalism’s role has always been to stir the pot and create activity that ads can be sold against. But now it seems we are getting to the core competency of journalism – engagement. When I interviewed Tim O’Reilly for 435 Digital he told me about the next generation of technology that will measure activity on the ground and translate it into online juice. He was not talking about 4square. He was talking about something deeper.  That was a year ago might be time to revisit that issue. It didn’t make it into my story…..

Jan Schaffer, JLab :
You know your journalism has had impact when people start participating in more than just your website, facebook page, blog or twitter feed.  🙂

Sally Duros, Indie journalist:

Brilliantly said! 🙂

Michael Rosenblum, RosemblumTV:

If you can’t create a profitable business around your journalism, then the rest of the discussion is moot.

 Sally Duros, Indie journalist: 

Agreed, Michael. What I am saying is that the ways that money can be made for the journalism business are nascent but under development. I believe we will see a clear way forward. We’re just not there yet.


Nonprofits, Causes: Position your digital newsroom

Thanks for the great conversation about digital storytelling earlier at #ChiCounts. Here’s the Storify. In a  world of fewer media gatekeepers, good information from nonprofits and causes is in demand. You now have all the tools  to tell  your stories well to your very specific audience and to amplify your reach.  But what stories should you tell? It’s all about figuring out where you fit in your news ecosystem – whether its geographical or knowledge based — and creating a system for storytelling

Sally Duros is a social journalist and digital storyteller. Connect with her on  and twitter at saduros.

Continue reading Nonprofits, Causes: Position your digital newsroom

Thank you, Mr. President — Barack Obama supports gay marriage


Here’s a rare story about gay marriage and how Barack Obama’s views have changed since he has become President.

In 2004, Michael Burke and Robert Charles wrote a letter to then Illinois State Senator Barack Obama and enclosed a modest check of support for his campaign for the U.S. Senate.

In the letter they told State Senator Obama that they “enthusiastically” supported his candidacy for U.S. Senate, but were disappointed to learn “that while you support civil unions you do not support gay marriage. While we understand the political calculation of such a strategy … we are disturbed by the moral dissonance that such a stance tolerates.”

They mailed the letter off to Obama’s Hyde Park address, hoping to sidestep the hoops of his campaign office. Imagine their surprise when they received two to three weeks later what appeared to be a personalized reply from State Senator Obama explaining in detail the political history and strategy informing his stance.

Continue reading Thank you, Mr. President — Barack Obama supports gay marriage