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Searching For Small-Town Heroes

Poynter published a very interesting article this week that builds a strong case for the importance of small-town newspaper editors -- the kind of community-focused people we are identifying and training through the NewStart program.

In John W. Miller's article entitled "Looking back at a day when small-town newspaper editors could be heroes," he focuses on the life of newsman Walter "Buzz" Storey and ponders what role people like Storey can and should play in America today.
And that’s the missing piece in the conversation about rebuilding local journalism and its artisanal truth-gathering practices with the holy superpower to defang conspiracy theories, rebuild shared narratives and make democracy possible.

To trust the work of journalists they don’t know, Americans need to see journalists they do know making phone calls, knocking on doors and printing corrections when they screw up.

“It’s one thing to look at a TV and say ‘national media sucks,’ it’s another to look a journalist who you actually know in the eye and say that,” John Isner, co-host of the popular West Virginia-based Appodlachia podcast told me. Without local journalism, he added, “the connection of rural America and national-level news is forever fragmented.”
The Buzz Storeys of the world are slowly disappearing, and so are many of the outlets they ran for decades. Miller discusses members of the next generation of journalists who may fill the void, but more are needed. And these journalists will not just have to worry about filling space in a printed product, but running the entire business and serving the needs of their communities in as many ways as possible.

Programs like NewStart can help. If you missed our announcement earlier this week, we are expanding our Media Solutions and Innovation program. Folks who are interested in ensuring that local journalism not just survives, but thrives, will be able to earn an online master's degree through WVU's Reed College of Media, or they can go the non-degree route and join our Executive Training Program. 

The results of both programs are the same -- training in how to make a local news outlet sustainable for years to come.

If this interests you, check out the details for both programs here. And if you have additional questions, send me an email and we can find a time to chat.

We would like nothing more than helping the next Buzz Storey become an integral part of a local community.

Checking In On Media Entrepreneurs

Back in October we featured a few newsletter creators who were trying to make a go of things on their own

You may remember Craig Calcaterra, who was let go by the NBC sports group and started his own baseball newsletter, and Matt Brown, who started his own NCAA athletics newsletter after a long stint at SB Nation.

Within the past week both of them provided an update on where they stand in their quest to be independent publishers. Here's the latest.

Calcaterra, who writes the Cup of Coffee newsletter, said on Twitter yesterday -- Opening Day, no less -- that he hit a major milestone:
Congrats, Craig! That's awesome.

Brown, meanwhile, wrote in his Extra Points newsletter earlier this week that he is coming up on the two-year anniversary of his newsletter overall, and the one-year anniversary of the launch of a paid version.
As of March 28, Extra Points has 4,621 free subscribers and 714 paid subscribers.

According to Substack, that comes out to a little over $50,000 a year in annualized revenue from subscriptions. When you add in revenue from merch, book sales and sponsorships, my annualized revenue is slightly over $53,000. My goal is to hit $60,000 by the end of 2021, and while that might be a stretch, I think it’s at least possible.

As far as other key metrics, a typical open rate for a free newsletter varies from 38-43% and 44-56% for a paid newsletter. CTR varies from 6-15% per email. Churn is typically under 3.5%.
So Extra Points is now profitable. That's great news! But as Brown pointed out, there still is some work to be done:
For a complete rundown of Brown's next steps in his path to media domination, check out the entire newsletter. It's a great look at how an entrepreneurial journalist is trying to find his way.

Building Brands With Brian

Speaking of newsletters, if you're at all interested in media entrepreneurship, you should check out The Rebooting by Brian Morrissey. 

Morrissey is the former President and Editor-in-Chief of Digiday, where he ran the audience side of the business, including editorial, memberships, product development, design, multimedia and events programming. 

He joined our NewStart students for a virtual chat back in February, where he shared some insight into media sustainability. It was a great session.

This week he published a newsletter edition all about building a media brand. Here are just a few tips from his post:
The strategies vs. tactics section is near and dear to my heart, and I'm working with several in our cohort right now on this. 

You definitely should read the rest of Morrissey's newsletter and subscribe while you're there.

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Ad Forecasting

Good news from the ad world -- Magna is forecasting that advertising revenue will rebound this year.
As the U.S. gets back on track following a disastrous 2020, so will the country’s advertising industry. Total ad revenues will rise by billions of dollars, and most marketing channels will stabilize to, or grow above, their pre-pandemic normals, the latest Magna Advertising Forecast predicts.

Buoyed by a long-term decline in COVID-19 cases, President Biden’s trillion-dollar stimulus package, and a return to regular sports programming, the advertising industry’s total 2021 revenues are set to increase 6.4% to $240 billion, according to Magna’s new report, released today. That outlook is 2.3 percentage points stronger than the company projected in its previous forecast from December 2020.
What does it look like for print, local TV, digital, etc? Check out the Magna forecast chart below. Still a big decline for print, sadly. Keep pushing those digital subscriptions, folks!

Quick Hits

Here is a lot of informative news from around the world of local journalism. Enjoy! 

Learn: "What the Outlier white paper reminds us is to look also to communities whose most important information needs were never met during even the so-called golden age of newspapers, and for whom the broadband rollout never came. These communities were being left behind by the previous news ecosystem. It is imperative, as we rebuild, that we not leave them behind again." "As media companies continue to struggle financially, some of the most out-of-the-box ideas for how newsrooms can generate revenue are coming from collaboratives." "The harassment and hate directed at national news outlets in the “fake news” hasn’t trickled down to smaller markets. It’s always been there." "We didn’t want publishers to be our customers. We wanted publishers to be our partners. Because the mission that we’re on is to establish a viable economic framework to support journalism on the open web. We want advertisers to pay money. We want consumers to pay money. But we didn’t want our platform to be an expense to the publisher." "Publisher Mike Blinder goes one-on-one with Shaw to learn more about how news consolidation models may benefit not just their company but the entire industry. Plus, we learn Shaw's thoughts about the industry's relationship and future with Google and Facebook, growing advertising revenue, building diversity in our newsrooms, and Shaw Media's plans for growth in the future."

This An' 'At: "Since a widely respected reporter quit her job at Charlotte’s local nonprofit newspaper two weeks ago, residents have been asking why — and wondering whether board members’ personal agendas led to her departure." "This year’s list of 25 Under 35 features men and women who all believe in that same mission. As you learn about them, be confident that the future of our industry is in good hands."


That's all for this week. 

You can follow NewStart on Twitter @wvunewstart, and you can @ me @jimiovino.

Interested in supporting our students in Year 2 and beyond? I'd be happy to talk! Wouldn't it be great to offer more fellowships and scholarships? You can help!

As always, you can find NewStart online at

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