Hot post: 5 questions, 5 answers, from Sacramento Press

I’m a little bit embarrassed about this, but I actually had a nice email exchange with Ben Ilfeld of sacramentopress.com back in late April… and in an inbox cleaning frenzy, I apparently lost it.  Ben very politely reforwarded it to me.  There’s some good stuff in here so this is my last “philanthrophile” act before I pack for vacation.  Here are the answers Ben posed to my questions:

1. When did Sacramento Press start up?
  • Geoff Samek and I had the idea to start a local newspaper with an online component in 2003.
  • We decided on enabling citizen journalism as the dominant part of the model in 2003-2004.
  • We started our company in 2005. We hired full time developers in 2007.
  • We launched a small private beta in late 2008.
  • In November 2008 we began to market The Sacramento Press.
  • At the end of January we began to sell ads.
2. How is Sacramento Press funded?
We are funded by ad revenue and our own investment. Geoff and I have invested our own money. We have not taken any outside investment or loans and we do not plan to.  We have been selling advertisements for just over two months and business has been brisk.  We have about 20 campaigns running on the site right now.
We see ourselves diversifying our revenue model as time goes on and the needs of our customers change.  I would be happy to talk with you or anyone else about our plans and theories about the future business models for local media.
3. Does Sacramento Press have a focus?
Our focus is hyper local to regional news and information in Sacramento. In fact our mission statement is:

The Sacramento Press will be the most useful, comprehensive local news and information source for the Sacramento MSA.

We believe that neighborhood level news is important and that for various reasons it is not regularly reported. We started The Sacramento Press because we wanted to fill in those cracks in the media landscape. Of course, during development of our site the problem has gotten significantly worse and we will attempt to grow into a larger role providing city and regional news as other organizations cut back their coverage of critical issues.
4. How is Sacramento Press better than outside.in?
There are lots of ways, but I will stick with two: we are local and we are a content creator more than an aggregator.
If you want to do local, be local. Trust me this works. Our ads are all local, our content is all local and the people on the site are the same people you run into on the street. Our advertisers and readers appreciate this. We meet people face to face and ride bikes labeled with “sacpress.com” all around town. We attend key events and we speak with local stakeholders.
The job of getting everyday people to write is tough. Getting people to commit acts of journalism is tougher. We offer face to face support, copy editing and regular workshops on journalism, ethics, interviewing skills, social media and the tools on our site. We have a full time employee dedicated to journalism support and part of my role is “recruitment manager.” This is hard work and it can only be done living in the community.
This brings me to the second major difference. We felt there was not enough local reporting, so simply aggregating the other reporting wasn’t going to solve the problem. We wanted to enable people to report what they knew was going on in their neighborhoods. We have since expanded and we do have a mix of staff writing, interns, public information officers, and mostly volunteer citizen journalists (I hate that term, but you know what I mean by it). The goal is to tell stories and have conversations. Nationwide operations like outside.in have their place as wonderful aggregators, but they do not seek to report stories and this is reflected in the lack of discussions on their site as well (at least for Sacramento).
5. What is the best way to contribute?
 
The best way to contribute is to sign up (button above the masthead) then start writing (“write” button above the masthead.  We only allow local content about Sacramento on our site and we ask our writers to be transparent about who they are and who they represent.
(Apologies for formatting glitches; that happens when you paste text from another program into wordpress – the codes lurk and it doesn’t necessarily publish like it looks in preview!)
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