The Rise of Content-First Startup

Most content websites have the same problem: They’ve assembled an audience. Paying for it? Well, that’s another story.

Startups have the reverse problem: they have a product they need to sell immediately, but no audience. As a result we’ve seen startups having robust blogs or newsletter arms that drive that is then given something to buy. I wrote about this collision of journalism and everything else in 2011, and at the time, it was unclear whether this plan would, you know, work. But I think we’re past the stage of “if” a content-first startup isa viable business plan.

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What I Learned Launching a Print Magazine

c2eec69c77f441087efa2d918a015805 As news sites continue to grapple for revenue opportunities, a few have returned the familiar ground of print (like Pando, Model View Culture, Grantland, Contently, The Great Discontent, and others). There’s a rising trend of sites that are using online content to build an audience that they turn into a subscriber list which they then charge to send a curated printed product. At 99U we’ve spent the majority of 2014 experimenting with this dynamic. The result is the 99U Quarterly, which is (at least at first) only available to people who have attended the 99U Conference. We aren’t the first and I imagine we wont be the last to travel the road from online to print. So, here’s what I’ve learned so far.

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Pretty Much Everything I Know About the News Business

This was first published on Medium here.

Last month, venture capitalist Marc Andreessen posted what, in his view, was the future of the news business. Reactions were varied, but everyone had one. I joked that my entire Twitter stream was people replying to Andreessen as he has very publicly thrown himself into the future of news conversation.

We need new voices in this discussion like Andreessen, but his post was too… nice. I’d bet he left his more candid insights out. After the post, I found myself wishing someone would share more actionable observations from the industry.

So, here’s my take. Each one of these could be their own essay. Please argue with me.

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AxisPhilly, The William Penn Foundation, and “Old Philadelphia”

On July 11, Philadelphia’s AxisPhilly, a public affairs news site bankrolled by the William Penn Foundation parted ways with its CEO Neil Budde, a move which will likely lead to the site being shuttered or significantly downsized. I no longer live in Philadelphia and am no longer involved in the day-to-day operations of its media community via Technically Philly, but the news of Budde’s departure left me a mix of angry, upset, and frustrated.

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