News for Digital Journalists

Posts tagged with: Funding

December 13, 2011

Digital First Media launching news technology incubator

Yesterday Digital First Media announced that in 2012 it will launch an “investment company” to foster tech startup companies that focus on content, advertising and audience development.

Vice President Jonathan Cooper clarified that the new spinoff, Digital First Ventures, will be more of an incubator than a venture capital firm…

So far few details are available about Digital First Ventures, but in an interview VP Jonathan Cooper clarified: “The idea is to use this to create partnerships with companies that we can work with.”

According to Cooper, eventually the spinoff may invest in other startups, regardless of whether they end up partnering with Digital First for its properties through Journal Register Company or MediaNews Group.

Cooper demurred on whether Alden Global Capital, the secretive hedge fund backing Digital First Media, will play a direct role in choosing or managing investments by Digital First Ventures. He noted that more details about the incubator are coming in early 2012.

In a related note, in a recent presentation, JRC/DFM CEO John Paton observed: “Clearly, we are not digital innovators in the newspaper business. But we are adapters.”

Paton also argued that news publishers should push beyond shovelware to start doing digital media right: “The right uses for the right platforms on the right occasions. And not just the simple re-purposing of content from one platform to another in order of priority.”

On the revenue side, he noted: “JRC is now launching about one new sales product each week. We source centrally and train and implement locally. Our local sales forces call it the ‘The Firehose’—an unending stream of products and ideas because in this transition no one knows what will work unless you try. To fill that firehose requires partnering. And just like in yesterday’s newsroom the old-fashioned closed sales floor didn’t partner very well. That’s now changed.”

And: “It’s time [for the news industry] to step forward into the fight for our markets. Because we can change and we have learned to partner and we already have the scale—as does the rest of the newspaper industry—that just about every content and sales startup is looking for.”

The News for Digital Journalists blog is made possible by a grant to USC Annenberg from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

February 01, 2012

Live chat Feb. 8: Knight Community Information Challenge

Looking for funding for your local news or information project? Consider approaching local community foundations and applying for the Knight Community Information Challenge. This contest offers matching grants to community and place-based foundations for community information projects. And in one week, there’s a great opportunity to ask questions about KCIC…

KCIC is now accepting applications, which must be submitted by a foundation.

Learn more and apply now!
Deadline: Feb. 27

Ask questions about KCIC in a live chat:
Feb. 8, noon EST, at

More context, see Michele McLellan’s recent posts:

The News for Digital Journalists blog is made possible by a grant to USC Annenberg from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

April 11, 2012

Six “new” journalists win AP-Google scholarships

This week six college students who exemplify “the new journalist in the digital media age” became the first winners of a new Associated Press-Google scholarship program. Each will receive $20,000 in the coming academic year to fund their work on projects “at the intersection of journalism, computer science and new media.”

Some of the winners are…

  • Emily Eggleston, graduate student, journalism and geography, University of Wisconsin-Madison. She founded the school’s data-driven journalism group and writes for the school’s hyperlocal site Madison Commons. Project: Producing data-driven stories about Madison.
  • Reginald James, undergraduate student, University of California-Berkeley. This Bay Area multimedia journalist produces the internet radio show The Black Hour and is a contributing editor for the independent news/community site Oakland Local. Project: Launch a mobile-friendly, hyperlocal version of UC Berkeley’s Onyx Express magazine serving the school’s black community.
  • Katie Zhu, undergraduate student, Northwestern University. She develop the mobile site for GOOD, a progressive news site and magazine. Project: to build LedeHub, a tool to apply the software development technique of distributed version control to the processes of journalism.

Read more about all the winners.

Applications for the next round of AP-Google scholarships opens April 30. This program is administered by the Online News Association.

The News for Digital Journalists blog is made possible by a grant to USC Annenberg from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

May 23, 2012

Knight News Challenge on data: applications open May 31

On May 31, this year’s second Knight News Challenge will begin accepting applications. This time the focus is on data—specifically “ideas that help unlock the power of data by collecting, processing, visualizing or otherwise making it available, understandable and actionable…”

Data about just about everything in our world is being generated at a breakneck pace, and we need better tools to make sense of it and put it to use to help individuals and communities.

Knight asks: “What are the implications—ethically, economically, socially—of having access to so much information? How can the flood of data best be channeled to make us better citizens? What stories can we tell? How will we act differently based on what we learn? What tools and products can we create out of this raw material? How do we consume data responsibly and healthily?”

This contest is open to anyone, anywhere. Winners receive a share of $5 million in funding plus support from Knight’s network of influential peers and advisors to help advance their ideas.

Deadline: June 20, 2012. Learn more

The News for Digital Journalists blog is made possible by a grant to USC Annenberg from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

June 05, 2012

Knight invests in startup Umbel for better audience metrics

Who are your reaching with your news and information? Are you reaching who you want to reach? How can you convey this important data effectively to advertisers and funders? These are crucial questions for any for-profit or nonprofit publisher, large or small—especially community and niche media outlets.

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation recently announced an investment in Umbel, a startup which aims to provide real-time audience information enhanced with data visualization…

According to Knight, Umbel “marries traditional research and big data analysis of social sources to give publishers real-time intelligence about the audiences that engage with them. With this information in hand, Umbel empowers publishers to convey their audience’s true value and brand preferences more effectively to advertisers and sponsors.”

Knight invested an undisclosed amount in Umbel’s $3.7 million Series A round of venture financing. This was done through the Knight Foundation Enterprise Fund—a new, early-stage venture fund dedicated to advancing media innovation.

Of course, one problem with using audience data as a sales tool is that it’s often boring and ugly—packaged in tables, bar charts, spreadsheets, or bullet points almost guaranteed to put an advertiser or funder to sleep. Also, only looking at the numbers can sometimes obscure the nuanced patterns of how audiences engage with publishers.

So far Umbel’s system is available only in private beta testing, so there aren’t many details on it. However, Umbel’s about page explains the key role data visualization plays in its system, and also shows an example graphic:

“In 1995 the first living organism’s genome was sequenced… The ability to identify and measure the traits of a genome provides insights to better understand organisms and powers the invention of new solutions that benefit us all. In 2011, Umbel sequenced the first Digital Genome. Measuring and identifying the traits of a digital organism will prove valuable for digital consumers, brands and publishers who want to understand and improve digital lives.”

Understanding patterns in media consumption and audience engagement is getting increasingly complex—especially as mobile devices are starting to take over as the most common way that people access the internet.

One especially thorny issue is recognizing how users shift their experience of your content across multiple devices over the course of a day or a week. A given user may tend to use a smartphone at certain times, a tablet at others, and a laptop or desktop computer at others.

Also, beyond merely consuming content, audience members can share it with their networks, add commentary or context, or directly engage with publishers about the content.

Understanding these and other patterns can help publishers craft strategies that keep pace with the needs and preferences of their digital (and increasingly mobile and multi-device) audiences—and craft advertising and sponsorship options that demonstrably complement how your audience engages with your content.

It’s unclear at this point how much Umbel might be taking mobile media or multi-device users into account. Gathering such data poses special technical challenges, compared to gathering data from how people access websites via computer. However, if Umbel’s data visualizations serve to more clearly illuminate important usage patterns, that would be a significant improvement upon the output of most audience metrics currently available.

The News for Digital Journalists blog is made possible by a grant to USC Annenberg from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

June 20, 2012

Knight announces six “networks” News Challenge Winners

This week the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation announced the six winners of the first 2012 round of the Knight News Challenge. These projects leverage existing networks to create new ways to inform and engage communities…

The winners are:

  •, which aggregates live mobile video streams of breaking news events (via networks such as Ustream and TweetCaster) into an easily searchable world map.
  • After a tornado destroyed their Massachusetts home, two sisters created an online organizing platform that helps disaster-stricken communities quickly launch recovery efforts. In the immediate aftermath of a disaster, enables communities to launch a website to ensure that heightened news attention translates into donations, volunteers and more.
  • A dashboard that tracks stories through social networks and across multiple news sites, to help newsrooms monitor what is resonating with readers and make smarter editorial decisions.
  • Watchup. This iPad app makes it easier and faster to find high-quality news videos. It also offers curated playlists which aggregates news reports into a simple interface.
  • Behavio. An open-source platform that turns phones into smart sensors of people’s real-world behavior, from how they use their phones to how they communicate. Funding will help programmers build apps with smarter sensors, create tools for journalists to uncover trends in community data, and launch a mobile application to help individuals explore data about their lives.
  • Tor Project. This longstanding project will leverage its vast network of volunteers to create a toolkit to help reporters communicate more safely with sources by using Tor’s secure Web browser, an anonymous upload utility, and more.

The deadline for applications for this year’s second News Challenge round (focused on Data) is tomorrow, June 21, noon EDT. Learn more and apply now.

The News for Digital Journalists blog is made possible by a grant to USC Annenberg from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

August 30, 2012

Knight News Challenge on Mobile: applications now open

Applications are now open for the third phase of this year’s Knight News Challenge, which focuses on mobile technology…

As with previous phases, the Knight News Challenge on Mobile is a fairly open-ended proposition. Participants must answer eight questions to explain their “idea on using mobile to improve news, information, democracy and communities, and your ability to execute on it.”

This could conceivably span projects that use text messaging, websites or web apps optimized for mobile users, mobile-friendly crowdsourcing, “native” apps tailored for specific mobile operating systems or devices, geolocation, mesh networking, and more.

Learn more and enter now.

DEADLINE: Sept. 10, noon EDT

The News for Digital Journalists blog is made possible by a grant to USC Annenberg from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

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