A whole generation of news publications are dying. The conventional wisdom is that the internet wiped away print advertising and also commoditized information irrevocably.
Yes, the Internet killed print ads, but I firmly believe we got the tech effect backwards. As the furor over fake news illustrates, tech—with all its commoditizing and falsifying power—has only increased the demand for quality information. We’re just short on quality supply.
Last year, we started The Information Accelerator to help close the gap. Simply put, we want to help create more quality news businesses.
Our program has three parts. We give early and medium-stage news businesses capital, distribution and mentorship to help them grow their revenues as fast as possible. We don’t take equity because we think companies should serve their readers, not their investors. We can help companies that may want to fundraise, but we want to help companies grow revenue so they will never need to.
If that sounds interesting to you, we’re opening applications for the class of 2019 today. The program kicks off next January, with a week-long bootcamp at our offices in San Francisco. The details are here. We hope you take a look. And if you are a business who wants to help, email firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d love to hear from you.
Our inaugural Accelerator class of 2018—five companies selected from 118 submissions—are doing amazing work on topics ranging from politics in Italy to impact investing to Hollywood. Many of them are seeing subscription growth in the double digits and expanding their teams. We are proud to be helping Daodu.Tech, ImpactAlpha, The Ankler, Detour Detroit and Good Morning Italia and look forward to doing so for years to come. I can’t wait to share more about their journeys in a new video project in the months ahead.
A Changed Landscape
A lot has changed since we announced this program last year, particularly when it comes to news funding. Tech companies have earmarked half a billion dollars for journalism projects, according to the Columbia Journalism Review. Facebook and Snap have launched news media accelerators. Billionaires like Jeff Bezos continue to fund journalism by buying publications or through non-profits.
I am happy to see new efforts that create jobs for journalists—particularly if they don’t have strings attached. But I continue to believe that the best formula for scaling quality journalism is to make it self-sustaining. Quality news has social benefits that exceed the financial ones. But that doesn’t mean good journalism isn’t a good business. And it must be to remain independent.
It’s the model that is working for us at The Information, which I started developing five years ago next month. In that period, our team has grown our business to millions in revenue, up 60% last year, with a small profit. We have one of the biggest newsrooms in Silicon Valley—if not the biggest—and three other offices around the world. We are months ahead of our competitors on the biggest stories in tech and business, and are fortunate to have more than 10,000 subscribers and hundreds of thousands of registered readers who get value from our reporting.
As I’ve said before, it’s not complicated. We write quality stories and get paid for them. It’s challenging because great reporting is hard. But it’s also deeply fun and rewarding. I can’t wait for the next five years—and the next 50.
Whenever I tell people about our story, they are quick to say we’re the exception, not the rule. We target well-off business readers. (True.) I have resources to invest. (True.) Tech is buzzy. (True.)
But tech is also very competitive, as is business news. So breaking in certainly isn’t easy.
Moreover, quality publications everywhere are finding loyal, paying audiences.
We all have our work cut out for us. As I wrote earlier this year, this next generation of publications must do more than ask readers to pay. As subscriptions get more competitive, the bar for content is higher and higher—and the product and growth demands are more intense.
These are the things that keep me up at night—not as fears, but opportunities. If you like to chew on these issues too, we’d love to work together.