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MinnPost: How we’re doing so far

Today, MinnPost.com is six months old.  It’s been an exciting ride so far.

On the journalism front, many of the most experienced and best-connected journalists in the Twin Cities are reporting and writing regularly for MinnPost — breaking exclusive stories, and digging deeper and finding new angles on stories you already knew about. At the outset, some questioned whether the freelance model would work for a daily news site.  I’m happy to say it is working.  We’ve lost less than a handful of contributors, and we’ve added at least two new handsful, including a number of journalists in the early stages of their professional careers.

Two recently added features, the Daily Glean and the Political Agenda, are among the most-read articles on MinnPost.com.  But our main news stories, Community Voices essays and Current Posts are also very popular.

Current Posts are combining the best of traditional journalism — solid, professional reporting, insightful analysis and a commitment to accuracy and fairness — with the more informal style that the Internet encourages. It’s fun to watch MinnPost’s writers grow more comfortable with this new style and do some of the best work of their careers.

We’re also excited about the high-quality audio and video reports we’re providing.  We’re still in the early stages of taking full advantage of multimedia.

A big part of MinnPost’s mission is to prove that there can be a sustainable business model for high-quality metro/state journalism, at a time when the newspaper business model is deteriorating rapidly. After six months, my report on our nonprofit business model is: so far, so good.

MinnPost.com has more than 100,000 absolute monthly unique visitors, as measured by Google Analytics.  This makes us the most-visited local-news website in Minnesota that is not driving traffic to itself from a legacy medium, like TV, radio or print.  Based on Alexa.com rankings, we believe MinnPost.com may be the most-visited nonprofit local news site in the nation.

Earlier this week, we passed another milestone: 4,000 people are now receiving our daily email, alerting recipients at about 11 a.m. each weekday of what’s new on the site. (If you’re not one of the 4,000, you can sign up here.)

MinnPost’s business model calls for breaking even by 2011 on two sources of revenue: advertising/sponsorship plus donations from members.

Despite a tough economy, advertising sales have picked up substantially. In April, we sold more than $25,000 of advertising. Even better news: Advertisers are re-upping, and telling us that they are very pleased with the results their ads are getting on the site. (To inquire about advertising, email Sally Waterman, director of advertising, at swaterman (at) minnpost (dot) com.)

Meanwhile, more than 840 of our readers have become annual members, supporting MinnPost with contributions ranging from $10 to $10,000. We’re hoping to reach 1,000 members by the end of June, so if you haven’t joined yet, go  here. Your contributions are tax-deductible. If you are already a member, please contribute to our new Watchdog Journalism Fund, which will finance more ambitious investigative and enterprise stories: Announced at the beginning of April, the fund has reached almost $22,000.

High-quality journalism — the kind that explores issues and trends that matter, instead of focusing on the superficial things that maximize audience — is not just a consumer good, it’s a community asset.  Our message is simple:  If you like MinnPost.com, we need you to support it financially.

The media landscape right now, both for longtime players like the daily newspapers and startups like MinnPost, is unpredictable and fragile. However, I believe that the trends in readership traffic, advertising, and membership suggest that we can achieve our goal of being break-even by 2011 — an exciting development for nonprofit high-quality regional journalism that would attract national attention. In the meantime, we need additional donations of seed capital, to supplement the $1.5 million we raised at launch, to keep MinnPost going until the break-even year. So if you have any rich uncles or aunts who care about the future of journalism, please have them call me. Or better yet, send me an email, and I’ll call them.

I welcome your comments about how MinnPost.com is doing and your suggestions for how we can improve the site and the business. Feel free to add your comment at the end of this article, or if you prefer to communicate privately, email me at jkramer [at] minnpost [dot] com.

Joel Kramer
Editor and CEO
MinnPost.com

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Comments (3)

  1. Submitted by Rick Ellis on 05/08/2008 - 02:18 pm.

    I really WANT to like what MinnPost is doing. I started out working for newspapers, and spent a sizable part of my time on serious news. And right now I’m slaving away on my own news start-up, albeit one that focuses on TV and the media.

    I want you guys to be successful.

    But you’re not a “must-read” for me yet.

    Part of it is despite the fact that you’re an online news organization, you publish as if you’re a newspaper. The site essentially keeps business hours as if it were an accounting firm, not a local news organization.

    But another part of the problem for me is that while many of the pieces are solidly written, I don’t find myself thinking “Wow, I didn’t know that.”

    Yes, some of the pieces on Iraq and other national and international issues are compelling. But if you’re truly trying to become the defacto leader in local news, then it seems that local news is where you should be targeting your resources.

    Like traditional print newspapers, you’re trying to be all things to the reader. I don’t need a local version of Slate. I need a better, more targeted version of the Strib.

  2. Submitted by Barb Dewey on 05/08/2008 - 09:30 pm.

    I feel much the way Rick Ellis does – MinnPost is quality journalism
    , the business model seems correct, and I want it to succeed. But the focus seems scattered –
    a bit of everything, and so it is not a “must-read” for me, either, at least
    not yet. But the efforts toward investigative journalism are
    exciting and perhaps the focus that is needed (or at least the
    focus I would be looking for). As a former
    journalist, I know this type of journalism takes extra effort,
    staff, time and money and I hope I can make a financial contribution to help out.
    Thanks and good luck!

  3. Submitted by Joe Musich on 05/08/2008 - 10:04 pm.

    Im a daily reader ! I really like the uncluttered interface. My eyes get a break from the paper websites.I’d like to hear the reporter telling their stories. Local issue coverage is good. How about so Bill Moyers type audio interviews.

    I’d like to see more school coverage. Something like the daily columns in the Washington Post and NY Times. The coverage I see for this topic is pretty shallow and could be more objective. I fear just like much of the cities rags but much less there is a degree of a slant toward management with education. The go deeper questions need to be also asked of teachers. Two high schoold were closed in Minneapolis and ….. Look for the quiet as well as the noise coming from the hired news shapers.

    Thanks. The MinPost is a much needed service.I remember Column One in the Strib years ago. That’s what I like the evolution goal to be.

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