BoiseDev started out a bit by accident but over the years it has grown and matured into a full-fledged news outlet, thanks to you. You can now support BoiseDev to help this effort sustain and grow, with some great benefits.
I’ve always been interested in development: new buildings, store openings and the like. One of the first stories I ever published was about a new Moxie Java. It was 1996 and I was 15.
After ten years in the newsroom at KTVB, I moved over to manage digital sales in 2010. I still had an itch for news and began tweeting about openings and closings, mostly based on public filings, under the #BoiseDev hashtag.
Then, in 2016, I left Channel 7, looking for new ways to stretch and grow. But I didn’t know exactly how.
I started a digital consulting firm, and, as a hobby, decided to start BoiseDev.com to experiment a bit and see what worked.
Later that year, I applied for the John S. Knight Journalism Fellowship at Stanford University. The process is a lengthy one, and I figured it was, at best, a long shot. I kept working on the digital business and it started to take off.
The folks at JSK offered me a spot in the Fellowship. In the summer of 2017, we packed up the dogs and headed to California for 10 months. I spent the time thinking about journalism and trying to find solutions to some of the thorniest problems facing local news.
After returning from Stanford, I turned my attention full time to BoiseDev, and it has blossomed. Since May, the number of unique users has doubled, the Facebook group has tripled and our email list has increased by more than a third.
People ask constantly how I plan to monetize this effort. Many folks have tried independent outfits in the local digital space, and the success rate is not high.
But I am an optimist, and local news in Boise needs more resources.
I believe we can make a dent in local coverage by following a different model.
The site has published more than 800 stories in the past two years. More than 95% of them have been what I call “unique and unduplicated.” That means most of the reporting you see here is not a rehash of other sources, not aggregation and not spun from a news release. Why should there be five versions of the same story by five different news outlets? With scarce resources, it makes little sense to chase each other around — particularly in the era of social media where folks only read one version and get news from a diverse pool of sources.
BoiseDev focuses on reporting on subjects that most interest readers. In the old model of journalism, an editor or producer decides what is important and reports it out to the masses. This has led to a formula of crime, car crashes, and conflict.
Instead, BoiseDev aims to report the stories you want told. Sometimes, it can be something as small as a new parking lot, or as big as a four-part series on urban renewal.
How do you build a business from this? First, through hard work. Through independence. Through credibility. Through reliability.
More to the point: through a mixture of advertisements and membership.
BoiseDev is not launching a paywall. We are also being selective about advertisers and formats (no popovers, pushdowns or other rude interruptions).
At Stanford, I had the opportunity of attending a conversation with Laurene Powell Jobs, owner of The Atlantic. She made a fair point that for journalism to survive, the audience would have to participate with their dollars. But she also said the reporting work would have to be available only to those who pay.
I was selected to ask her a question and wanted to know her thoughts on balancing the information needs of a community with the need to generate revenue. I found her answer unsatisfactory and ultimately she just returned to her earlier point.
So, then, how do we generate membership revenue without a paywall?
Today I am announcing BoiseDev FIRST: membership in support of local independent journalism.
I am asking you to support BoiseDev at a rate of $10 per month or $99 per year.
There are four primary benefits:
- Members will receive all stories, full-text in their email inbox. No remembering to check this site. No hoping a story makes it to you on social media. Starting in January, many stories will be sent to members first, generally one day in advance. This won’t apply in the case of breaking news or in certain other circumstances. This provides a strong membership benefit without putting up a paywall or locking out the general public.
- Access to a members-only Slack forum. This will be a place for high-level discussion on our stories, growth and more. The existing Facebook group will continue.
- Conference call series. Starting early next year we will produce an interactive call-in show with decision makers and leaders. Members will have the chance to participate, and they will get access to an archive.
- Perhaps most importantly, members will help this effort to sustain — and hopefully — to grow.
Plus, founding members will be invited to our launch meet-and-greet event in early 2019.
I am also pleased to announce the formation of the BoiseDev Advisory Board. This group of seven folks will help in this effort to build a strong, durable product that serves Idaho well.