In the spirit of doing a better job of telling our own story, here’s an update on how part of our business has evolved since we started.
From the very beginning of Taproot, we’ve worked to avoid being dependent an advertising-supported business model. We started with membership as our first revenue stream. Membership is an effective way to align incentives – the better we serve members, the more of them we should be able to attract!
When we introduced our Roundups last year, we added sponsorship as our second revenue stream. We were inspired by popular newsletters from around the world that offer organizations an opportunity to display their brand inside each edition, to help make the newsletters sustainable. Sponsorship offers us another way to align incentives – the better we serve the community that sponsors care about, the more of them we should be able to attract!
The sponsors you see in our Roundups are supporters of the work we do and their financial contributions help to make our publications sustainable. The benefit they receive, in addition to ongoing brand awareness, is to be associated with something that (hopefully) is making a positive impact in the community they care about.
We have three types of sponsors. Title sponsors make the largest financial contribution and so receive the largest benefit, with their logo in the top and bottom of each edition, on our website, and special mention on social media. Our Cultivators are the square logos you see inside each edition. And on occasion we will promote relevant events through ad hoc sponsorship.
To be clear, none of our sponsors get any say over the content of the roundup. Our curators and editors determine what the lead story is and which headlines and events are included in each edition. We maintain editorial independence, which benefits readers of course, but also sponsors. It’s in their best interests to have a publication that the community trusts.
Our first allegiance is and always will be to the reader. If readers can’t trust us, we’ll fail at our mission to help the community understand itself better. In order to serve readers though, we need to have money coming in. We hope that we’ve struck the right balance with sponsorship.
If you have questions about this or if you’d like to learn more about sponsorship, send us an email at email@example.com.
We’ve been sitting on some news for the past few weeks, and now it can be revealed — we’ve been selected for the first Edmonton cohort of the ATB X business accelerator program!
Since Mack and I started talking about Taproot in 2016, we’ve known we wouldn’t succeed without building a sustainable business to support the local journalism we seek to do. So many media startups have failed because their founders have not focused enough on the money side. We knew we had to avoid that trap.
Keeping an eye on the bottom line is necessary but not sufficient for building what comes next in local journalism. Lots of smart people are working on this problem, but no one has completely figured out how to ensure we can afford to pay enough people to pay attention to our community, not only as well as local newsrooms used to, but better. There’s no map — we have to find our own way.
We’ve gone pretty far on our own. This was very much a side project when we started; now it is Mack’s full-time job, and I contribute as much as I can while running the Alberta Podcast Network (another adventure in local media, because that’s what I do). Along the way, we have diversified our revenue streams and listened hard to our members, sponsors and customers to build a new way forward. We are on a path we could not have imagined when we began, and we think it’s going to take us where we need to go.
Enter ATB X, a support program for startup companies that helps entrepreneurs like us level up, through expert advice and peer mentorship. There’s no equity or funding involved; this is really about making sure we have the skills to make Taproot strong enough to achieve its full potential.
We’ll be joined by a fascinating variety of local businesses:
We look forward to learning from these teams, and to sharing what we know to help them, too.
Thank you to everyone who has helped us along the way, whether you’ve become a member or shared our stories or sponsored a roundup or given us a chance to spread the word. You’ve invested confidence in us; we’re looking forward to paying dividends.
We are proud to be among more than 170 news outlets participating in Covering Climate Now, a worldwide project to strengthen the media’s focus on the climate crisis.
Like our fellow participants in this effort pulled together by the Columbia Journalism Review and The Nation, we have committed to running a
week’s worth of climate coverage leading up to the United Nations Climate
Action Summit on Sept. 23.
Ongoing disasters tend not to get the concerted attention that
sudden ones do, and this effort is meant to address that weakness in how we
tend to inform people about what’s going on. We know there’s a lot going on
locally on this file, and we feel we can perform a valuable service by putting
it together in one place.
Taproot’s coverage kicks off with a discussion with climate-change communicator Chris Gusen on the Speaking Municipally podcast. Chris will go on to curate a climate change section in each of our roundups throughout the week of Sept. 16. Then he plans to pull all the threads together at the end of the week.
If you already subscribe to our roundups, watch for Chris’s
contributions, and feel free to share the newsletters and the podcast on social
media. If you don’t, now is a good time to signal your interest in this topic
and our effort to better inform our community. Sign up today.
Martin Seto, producer of the COPAs, said they “celebrate the people that produce content in a world where there is growing mistrust of the media and the widespread distribution of tabloid and farticle content on the internet.” This year was the 10th anniversary of the awards.
We combined open data from the City with other data that we collected to build the election microsite. Prior to Election Day, readers could use the Election Guide to find their wards, candidates, voting station, and more simply by entering their address or clicking the “Locate Me” button. On Election Night, the results dashboard provided real-time updates on every race, total voter turnout, and other interesting data points, such as the incumbents being defeated and the most supported candidates. Once the information became available, we updated the microsite with campaign finance disclosures. You can easily search the data to see all the donations that candidates received.
On our original FAQ page, we clarified that Taproot Edmonton is not a blog: “We love blogs, but this is not a blog.” We hadn’t yet published any stories and we had a high bar for quality in mind, so we wanted to convey that. Now you can actually read our stories and see the quality for yourself.
We have always been fans of blogging though! I’ve been writing at mastermaq.ca since 2003, and Karen was an early adopter of blogs too. A blog is an excellent tool to communicate what we’re working on, which is why we’re launching this one now. We plan to share product updates, thoughts on the future of local media, and other updates related to Taproot.
If you’re new to Taproot Edmonton, we’re a source of curiosity-driven stories about our city, cultivated by the community. We are building a new way to do local journalism, and a new way to fund it, because the business model that used to support local journalism is broken. We are striving to replace what is being lost with something that is sustainable and responsive to the community we serve.
We look forward to sharing the journey with you here.