Supporting the new news ecosystem

Friend Mark Potts is announcing a new company today, called GrowthSpur, which will help support what I believe will be the future ecosystem of local news. You can read about it at Jon Fine’s column in BusinessWeek and on Mark’s blog. I’ve been helping since its early phases.

Mark, who also founded and learned a lot of hyperlocal lessons at, saw a need and an opportunity in providing news to metro areas as newspapers there fade. Like others, he and I – being editors – thought of organizing shock troops of journalists to go into such silent markets. But then we realized that there already is journalism happening there with bloggers and former journalists starting sites to serve local communities. So it seemed the real need and opportunity was to provide business support for them: helping them survive and succeed online.

And so that’s what GrowthSpur will do: optimize the business of local sites and blogs – hyperlocal blogs, local interest blogs, new news organizations. It will help them create and sell better advertising and services for local marketers. It will help create metro-wide and local networks. It will enable new revenue models (think: e-commerce). In short: Its aim is to improve the business of local news. Potts has assembled a team to do that.

At the New Business Models for News Project at CUNY, we’re seeing that hyperlocal blogs can already be good businesses and through the efforts of enterprises like GrowthSpur, we think they can be even better, which we believe will encourage more of them to start (more on that soon). At the Project, we’ve worked with Potts et al; they’ve helped us with thinking through models and we’ve helped them – and other enterprises – with research and analysis, all of which we’ll be sharing on the project’s site.

I’m excited to see entrepreneurship come to local news – not just mourning over the fate of legacy businesses and institutions but investment in the future of journalism. At the NewBizNews Project, we’ve surveyed scores of local bloggers and sites that are making new, sustainable businesses. We will be advising them on how to improve those businesses and we hope that might inspire more journalists and bloggers to join in. We’ve gotten advice from new companies like Merrill Brown’s Prism, which has a plan for metro news and will build it. We’re collecting new revenue models. We’ll soon share much more about our research and models. The bottom line: There is a bottom line for news.

: And here’s John Thornton, founder of the Texas Tribune, talking about his investment in local news from the not-for-profit perspective.