Something New is Growing in US Journalism

A few weeks ago, I spoke on the Scale podcast with Stewart Ritchie. One of things we discussed was that WordPress-based companies are building an infrastructure to help publishers to succeed. Even three or four years ago, that infrastructure did not exist. In 2019, it was just more difficult to launch a news start-up.

Now in 2023, there are new tools, communities and platforms to make it easier for publishers to launch their start-ups. I listed three examples on the Scale podcast:

  1. Newspack: taking away the technical challenges of WordPress. Newspack launched in 2021.
  2. INN: building a community of publishers. INN is an older organization but has transformed in recent years to cover to over 400 newsrooms.
  3. States Newsroom: putting journalists into local state houses around the US. States Newsroom launched in 2019.

I can add Lede and PaywallProject to that list now. In addition to these more public resources, there are also new private WordPress platforms being built by publishers such as Penske Media, MediaNews Group, Meredith, and Schneps.

I think we’ll look back on 2020 to 2022 as the start of a new journalism movement in the USA.

For the lack of a better name, I’ve taken to calling them “Kinship publishers.” I use the term “Kinship” because the defining feature of these publishers is that they build a genuine relationships with their readers.

Here are several traits that define this movement:

  1. They aim to build community, rather than chase clicks.
  2. Their coverage is tightly focused one or two subjects or locations.
  3. They have range of revenue sources, including subscriptions, ads, donations, and events.
  4. Profit is important but not the only key reason for the publisher to exist. Some are businesses and owned by the journalists. Many are non-profits.
  5. Most of them build on WordPress because it gives them ownership of their platform.

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