Journalist. Looking for the next big challenge.

An unfinished list of ventures in journalism you should be watching (and why)

October 20, 2013 (updated on August 6, 2014)

One thing that makes current times so interesting for journalism is that everybody is still looking for a model that will work for journalism in the 21st century. Given the speed of technological change and the complexity of what is now the media landscape, it’s unlikely we’ll ever find a model that will work for more than a few years for more than a few publishers. The hype around native advertising or metered paywalls is primarily a manifestation of the hope for silver bullets.

There will have to be lots of experiments.

So here’s a list of journalism ventures worth watching closely, each for a different set of reasons.

I’m fully aware that this list falls short of highlighting all the movers and shakers in the field of journalism. That’s why I invite everyone to suggest additions (either in the comments section or via Twitter). My view is inevitably biased towards European and English language ventures, so I’m especially glad if you point me to ventures from Africa, South America and Asia.

For now, I’ve left out all the ventures that are entering the media sphere from a tech background, like Twitter, LinkedIn, Flipboard, Zite and many more. Neither have I included the likes of The New York Times or The Guardian, assuming that everyone is watching them already.

Aeon Magazine

What? London-based online magazine about «nature, culture and ideas».

Why? Simple concept, great content: one essay each weekday. The kind of venture to answer one of the key questions of the industry: How to fund quality content when you’re not subsidizing it?

Where? Aeon Magazine

AJ+

What? Al Jazeera’s attempt to produce news for a generation that doesn’t watch news networks on TV anymore.

Why? How will disruption from within the TV industry fare against new players like Nowthisnews?

Where? Yet to be launched.  See Giga OM for a look behind the scenes.

Ampp3d

What? An upcoming site by Trinity Mirror making «socially shareable data journalism».

Why? Can the people who made Usvsth3m an instant success repeat that with data journalism? What will be their approach be to make data journalism explicitly «socially shareable»?

Where? Ampp3d

Atavist

What? Publisher of multimedia stories via its own iOS app.

Why? For exploring the possibilities of multimedia storytelling (including sound!) and for being an antithesis to snowfallesque projects on the open web.

Where? Atavist

Betaworks

What? Startup incubator, investor, builder based in New York City.

Why? With Digg, Instapaper, Tapestry and Bloglovin in their portfolio, they’ve only started connecting the dots (pun intended).

Where? Betaworks

Blendle

What? An «iTunes for news», one app to access all news published in the Netherlands.

Why? The idea of an «iTunes for news» has been around for years. This is the first all-in implementation of it and the news industry will be able to learn a lot from either its success or failure. Most interesting – because bold – feature: If a user didn’t like an article s/he just paid for, getting a refund is only a click away.

Where? Blendle

Buzzfeed

What? Listicle powerhouse with increasingly serious ambitions in all branches of journalism.

Why? They are showing how to grow and internationalise like a tech company rather than a media company. Their upcoming dedicated news app will be an attempt at establishing Buzzfeed as the one stop shop for news.

Where? Buzzfeed

Byliner

What? Author-centered platform for discovering longform journalism. Publisher of short books called Byliner Originals.

Why? They are slowly building a social network around reading (longform) journalism. Another business model going to outsiders? (Update: Maybe not)

Where? Byliner

Circa

What? News app that curates individual story elements into mobile-friendly narratives.
Why? They are completely rethinking news narratives for the mobile age with what they call «atomisation of articles». Will be also interesting to watch how their use of notifications – based on what news a user is following – will evolve.
Where? Circa

Contributoria

What? Guardian-backed platform for writers to get funding and find collaborators for stories.
Why? Unlike other Kickstarter-esque platforms, Contributoria aims at covering the full cycle of a story, from proposal to publication. Will be interesting to watch if the community will grow strong enough and how it can eventually integrate with the Guardian.
Where? Contributoria

Correctiv

What? Non-profit investigative newsroom. A «German Pro Publica».
Why? Strong team, strong mission, strong initial funding. Can they become the «German Pro Publica», not just in terms of how they are organised, but in terms of impact?
Where? Correctiv

De Correspondent

What? Amsterdam-based site for in depth-reporting.

Why? Engaged subscribers and no advertisers – a model for the future?

Where? De Correspondent

Epic Magazine

What? Publisher of longform stories that have the potential to become movie scripts.

Why? How to plan lifecycle monetisation of big narratives.

Where? Epic Magazine

Evening Edition

What? An evening briefing on the most important stories of the day.

Why? A question for everyone: What can we make of the evening?

Where? Evening Edition

First Look Media

What? Digital news organisation, funded by billionaire Pierre Omidyar.

Why? How will First Look’s division into a for-profit technology company and a non-profit journalism side play out? What other big names of the likes of Glenn Greenwald and Matt Taibbi can they hire to lead their upcoming verticals?

Where? First Look Media, The Intercept, First Look’s first vertical, headed by Glenn Greenwald.

Fivethirtyeight

What? Nate Silver’s statistics blog of election fame, formerly part of the New York Times, due to be relaunched as a standalone project, albeit owned by ESPN.

Why? Can Nate Silver scale his approach to turn his elections blog into a general interest site and continue to inspire statistics-based journalism?

Where? Fivethirtyeight

Forbes

What? Business news magazine.

Why? After turning Forbes into a platform by establishing a sound contributor model, Lewis Dvorkin’s next steps will be interesting to watch.

Where? Forbes

Gawker Media

What? The publisher behind blogs like Gawker, Lifehacker or Gizmodo.

Why? For constantly experimenting and innovating in reader involvement beyond comments, most notably with Kinja. Plus: Gawker licenses all its content under creative commons.

Where? Gawker Media

Hi

What? Platform for storytelling around images and places.

Why? A novel, yet very intuitive approach to storytelling: You start short – when people ask you to «Tell more», you expand.

Where? Hi

Journalism++

What? Multinational, independent network of data journalists.

Why? As data journalism is still growing slowly within newsrooms, they are paving the way by producing exemplary work and educating others.

Where? Journalism++

Krautreporter

What? Crowdfunding platform turned «De Correspondent»-inspired platform. Yet to be launched.

Why? Finally, a sign of bottom-up innovation in Germany. Will it work?

Where? Krautreporter

Matter

What? Subscription based longform stories «about science, technology and the ideas shaping our future.»

Why? For trying to create a rich package around longform journalism and sell it by the piece. (Update: They dropped their paywall)

Where? Matter

Mediapart

What? Paris-based news site with ironclad paywall.

Why? How to be profitable with no advertising at all.

Where? Mediapart

Medium

What? A publishing platform by Twitter co-founders Evan Williams and Biz Stone.

Why? How can the interface, especially the writing environment, be used to improve the quality of the output?

Where? Medium

Monocle

What? Cosmopolit top-end magazine that very closely resembles its creator, Tyler Brulé.

Why? Like few other publications, they are bold about print without neglecting digital. Plus: They’ve nailed native advertising before it was cool.

Where? Monocle

Mother Jones

What? Independent bimonthly magazine and news site based in San Francisco.

Why? A striking example of the strength of non-profit, reader and donation supported journalism.

Where? Mother Jones

Narratively

What? New York City based digital magazine, dedicated on «sharing in-depth local stories with a universal appeal»

Why? This is what doubling down on local, human-interest narratives looks like. One topic each week, one piece per day, they use the full spectrum of storytelling means to make untold stories big.

Where? Narratively

Newscred

What? Intermediary that licenses content from publishers and delivers it to brand sites or other publishers.

Why? A question for everyone: You create great content, is your site the only place it should be?

Where? Newscred

Next Draft

What? One man curation newsletter by Dave Pell.

Why? Curation is 50% finding the right content and 50% finding a distinct style to present it. Dave Pell is a model for both.

Where? Next Draft

Nowthisnews

What? News site that produces content specifically for social platforms like Instagram or Vine.

Why? How to produce content that not only spreads over social media, but actually works right there?

Where? Nowthisnews

Numbeez

What? Personalised news app from Tel Aviv for «the numbers you care about»

Why? An interesting attempt at telling stories with numbers only, combining data driven journalism for stories about others and quantified self for stories about yourself.

Where? Numbeez

OnOn.at

What? An online news experiment covering «Europe with a focus on Austria»

Why? The site is essentially a proof of concept for Luminous Flux, a software to present news as a process, thus re-imagining «the article».

Where? OnOn.at

Poderopedia

What? Collaborative platform from Chile (translates as Powerpedia) to uncover relationships between people, companies and organizations in power.

Why? Rather than pinning the news cycle, they are visualising the fabric that explains a lot about why in in what context some things are happening.

Where? Poderopedia

Quartz

What? Business news site, founded by The Atlantic in 2012.

Why? Very resource-effective with their browser-only approach and highly standardised article formats and charts. The biggest takeaway is from their editorial approach, though: They make people read business news who didn’t know they were interested in business.

Where? Quartz

Storyful

What? A «news agency of the social media age» from Dublin, Ireland.

Why? The news agency the 21st century calls for, using technology and crowdsourcing to discover and verify content before anyone else.

Where? Storyful

Syria Deeply

What? In-depth reporting on Syria’s ongoing war.

Why? Take one big issue of our time, double down on it and become the go-to-source for anyone interested in it (while making more people interested in it in the first place).

Where? Syria Deeply

The Conversation

What? Not-for-profit journalism project from Melbourne, Australia, «featuring content from the sharpest academic minds»

Why? A journalistic interface between academic discourse and the public, implicitly raising the question: Is science best covered by scientists?

Where? The Conversation

Upworthy

What? Curation site, dedicated to spreading «things that matter».

Why? They’ve proved that you can make serious content go viral. Should be a lesson to everyone who, when writing headlines, is still mistaking boring for serious.

Where? Upworthy

Usvsth3m

What? Well, a Tumblr. A wildly successful one. Owned by Trinity Mirror.

Why? How to pull off innovation within a big media enterprise. Also: casual games with a newsy twist.

Where? Usvsth3m

Vice News

What? Vice Magazine’s global news network, launched in February 2014.

Why? Can Vice grow to be the «CNN for Generation Y» it wants to be? And what exactly does that mean?

Where? Vice News

Vocativ

What? New York City based investigative news site, backed by security tech magnate Mati Kochavi.

Why? Dedicated to «mining the unindexed, un-Google-able Web», they are heavily relying on technology to «identify clusters of disparate signals» on the web that will lead to stories.

Where? Vocativ

Vox.com

What? Ezra Klein’s new venture within Vox Media, focused on «explaining the news».

Why? Can a journalist-made Wikipedia with a more narrow focus on news topics work?

Where? www.vox.com.

Vox Media

What? The publisher behind The Verge, SB Nation and Polygon.

Why? One of the very few media ventures where the CMS drives, not hinders creativity. On a strategic level: With its latest big capital infusion, what’s next for Vox?

Where? Vox Media

Watson

What? Zurich-based news site, launched in January 2014.

Why? The first digital only, technology-driven news venture in Switzerland.

Where? Watson

Zetland

What? Copenhagen based publisher of journalistic singles, texts that are longer than articles but shorter than books. Very similar to what Byliner is doing in the US.

Why? Is extralongform the kind of journalism that can be sold in the digital age, by breaking into the non-fiction book market? «Zetland live» is a experiement to create a «live magazine» that only exists on stage.

Where? Zetland

Now, add yours.

Use the comments section, tweet me at @davidbauer or use whatever way you prefer to get in touch.

Waiting list

This list has received way more attention than I had anticipated and I’ve received tons of suggestions for ventures to be added. While I’m still sifting through them and making up my mind about them, here’s a list of the ones I’m currently considering.

Al Jazeera America, Animalpolitico, Apache.be, Delayed Gratification, Guardian Newscafé, Internews, OhmyNews, Päng!, Politifact, Pro Publica, Prozess.reportQuien Manda, Reportagen, Serial PodcastTexas Tribune, The Detail, Transterramedia, ushahidi, Webedia.

While I’ve been working on this article, Martin Giesler has had a similar idea and published 7 sites, people and startups that are pushing the boundaries of journalism. If you speak German, have a look.

If you liked this article, you might also be interested in this:

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  • Karsten Wenzlaff

    Hi David,

    here are two things that I find relevant:

    Tame

    Tame positioned itself as Twitter-Search-Engine and has raised its money through Crowdfunding. But clearly the focus is global, because it brings structure to the global information universe called Twitter.

    However its big impact on the media landscape will be creating a data layer of relevance of sites. Tame has understood that no more the links between sites, but the usage of a certain link in social media gives the closes approximation to relevant on a real-time basis.

    Ununi.tv

    Ununi.tv wants to create a crowd university. While it might revolutionize how people think about online education, its longterm impact is beyond that.

    The future of interactive video content only is in the long-tail of all kinds of niches. Media outlets are just slowly realizing how relevant long-tail content is, and Ununi.tv will show them that a community of contributors might create more relevance to long-tail content than a large media house.

  • http://www.davidbauer.ch/ David Bauer

    Thanks for the input. Both are interesting services, however, I don’t consider them ventures in journalism. Tame should go into a «tools for journalism» list.

  • Mads Kolby

    Here’s one from Denmark:

    Zetland (zetland.dk) publishes what they call “singles”: Longform stories that are longer than articles but shorter than book. Ones that can be read in an afternoon. The ambition is that the stories should make you learn something you didn’t know and give you something you’ll remember. Examples are story about the biggest armed robbery in Denmark, Rise and fall of Scandinavian Airlines, “generation debt”, Danes in the American civil war etc.

    They sell the singles via Riidr and iBooks. Price is 4-5 euros. Or you can buy a membership and get all singles for free for about 38 eur.

    They also arrange “Zetland Live” which is a live, on-stage performance of what’s hot in journalism, photography, litterature, radio and film. They are usually sold out pretty quick, I think.

  • http://www.davidbauer.ch/ David Bauer

    Thanks, Mads. That sounds interesting, will need to have a closer look.

  • Mads Kolby

    Will need to learn Danish in that case ;-)

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  • http://www.elie.li/ Elie_CH

    Hi,

    Cool list.

    I recently had a close look at https://www.nsfwcorp.com/
    Good insight about this venture is available here: http://pandodaily.com/author/paulbcarr/
    Quite interesting

    How about adding services such as http://www.tinypass.com/about/?

    You mention Mediapart. Arrêt sur image is another french one with a paywall, and it’s doing well: http://www.arretsurimages.net/

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  • Marcus Anhäuser

    Hi David,

    Do you know The Atavist, a small New York based Company, which publish multimedia longform, non-fiction storys and licence there framework to authors and publishers?

    https://www.atavist.com

  • http://www.davidbauer.ch/ David Bauer

    I do. Will go into the first update of the list.

  • http://skift.com/ Jessica Plautz

    I’d like to suggest Skift (disclosure: That’s where I work), which is news, info and intelligence for the travel industry. We’re bringing focused attention to a vertical that is awash in data but lacking in innovation (in terms of coverage). In addition to the journalism, we’re launching several data products.

  • stefania

    David, thanks for this excellent and very useful overview. Drawing your attention to a new tiny projects with great ambitions in the #ddj and #dataviz field: http://datajlab.nl, launched less than two weeks ago, with a few projects in the pipelines and many to come. views?

  • Jan Vangrinsven

    I’d like to add the Belgian Newssite http://www.apache.be (Dutch and French), a cooperative organisation focused on investigative journalism and the revaluation of the media as a fourth estate

  • http://www.davidbauer.ch/ David Bauer

    Added it with my first update of the list. Please check if I’m describing it correctly, had to rely on looking and Google Translate, since my Danish is limited to saying “tak”. So, tak for helping me out.

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  • Tracey Arial

    Do you know beststory.ca?

  • Source Sleuth

    Hi David – Great list. Our service (SourceSleuth.com) might also be a good fit for a tools for journalism list. Thanks for this!

  • Paul Stanley

    How about The Magazine? http://the-magazine.org/

  • http://www.davidbauer.ch/ David Bauer

    Good point. Will go into the waiting list.

  • Miro Lucassen

    What: Weekly Dutch magazine on the web, paid by subscribers, with eleven articles in each issue on politics, economics and media.
    Why: Strong personal and international views, well written by leading journalists and opinion makers.
    Where: http://www.tone-app.nl

  • Liam Corcoran

    Hi David,

    You might be interested in NewsWhip Spike, a content discovery platform that shows the world’s most shared stories in real time. It tracks around 250,000 stories in different categories and countries every day, making it a valuable resource for journalists and marketers looking to find the next big story in their niche, while it’s still small.

    The pro version is available at spike.newswhip.com, offers a free trial for new users.

    Liam

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