A modest proposal for restoring trust in journalism through community pride, not high-minded principles.

A bright future we’re not prepared for.

You hear it everywhere in news circles: reader revenue is the future. If we want to strengthen our troubled local news ecosystem, it’s most important to convince individuals to subscribe to their local papers. It’s recurring revenue, it’s less influenced by macroeconomic trends than advertising is, and it’s proof that the audience actually cares about local issues, not just national stories.

Reader revenue is also tough to come by in most markets in the country, because, tragically, most readers don’t think their local newspaper is currently worth paying for.

Who could blame them? The vast majority of digital news sites and their associated reading experience are built for advertising — clickbait headlines, obnoxious interactive ads, auto-playing video, and intrusive tracking technology. A mixed-revenue approach has made for confusing, contradictory products — the self-destructive ads-on-everything engine powering free, semi-automated content mills paired with metered pay walls that promise but too often fail to deliver a premium and pleasurable reading experience once you open your wallet (not least because the ads rarely go away when you pay). …


For early-stage startups, technical feats are the least important evidence of their potential.

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January 31st will be my last day at Matter. It’s been an honor and privilege, and the three years I got here will continue to influence how I approach work for the rest of my life. Rather than fully enumerate how, I wanted to sign off from my run with one lesson I learned through experience. Thank you. Change media for good.

As the somewhat rare investor and startup advisor who comes to the space from a design and product strategy perspective primarily, I have a reputation for saying the same things over again to every founder I meet:

“Who is this for? Specifically. …


Reflections on an experiment to support local news innovation

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At CUNY: the first of four class photos.

To say this year started with a bang for Matter is an understatement. Just two days into the New Year, I learned that:

  1. We were moving ahead with our local news innovation bootcamps with the support of Google News Initiative.
  2. I was in charge!

It was a shot of adrenaline that launched us into rapid action. Over the next month, we finalized plans with Google, enrolled News Media Alliance as our industry partner, and secured the support of our incredible university partners at CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, UC Berkeley Advanced Media Institute, the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute at the Missouri School of Journalism, and the James M. Cox Jr. Institute for Journalism Innovation, Management & Leadership at the University of Georgia’s Henry W. …


Six incredible organizations will convene to innovate in the birthplace of modern journalism education.

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Open Matter rolls on! Our series of four design thinking and business model innovation bootcamps kicks off in earnest at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism on Monday, and we’re buzzing in anticipation to connect with and coach the incredible publications that are participating.

Next up will be the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute at the Missouri School of Journalism, the birthplace of modern journalism education. It’s a fitting venue and an incredible partner, located in the near-geographic center of the lower 48 states and the almost-exact center of Missouri. …


Seven incredible organizations will launch our first-ever bootcamp offered to teams outside our existing community

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Less than two months ago, we had the tremendous privilege to announce Open Matter, a series of four design thinking and business model innovation bootcamps at leading journalism schools offered to for-profit news organizations. In partnership with Google News Lab and News Media Alliance, we’ll accept at least 20 organizations and 120 individuals the opportunity to attend, tuition-free, these three-day workshops in an effort to provide tools for discovering and creating more sustainable models for local news.

Today, I’m equally excited to actually announce which remarkable organizations have made it through our competitive application process to earn a coveted slot at our very first Open Matter Bootcamp in New York City. April 23–25, they will gather at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, to collaborate, experiment, immerse in new process and methods, and emerge with fresh perspectives and skills to take back home and apply to some of the most challenging problems in local news. …


There’s no silver bullet. That’s why we need to take a lot of shots.

This spring, we’re launching Open Matter: Local News Bootcamps, in partnership with Google News Lab, News Media Alliance, and 4 Top J. schools. You can read more about the program and opportunities for local, for-profit news organizations here. The live application is here.

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Scenes from a past Media Partner Bootcamp at Matter.

Local news companies don’t need false hope. Times are tough, and the trends that have shrunken newsrooms and trust in the media are likely to continue. We’re designing Open Matter bootcamps for local news professionals from editorial, business, and design backgrounds; there’s no room for hype here, not least because newspeople can smell nonsense a mile away.

So let me be perfectly clear: Design Thinking is not a magical savior. …


Why I’m so thrilled to lead Open Matter’s first wave: it’s fulfilling on a decades-old promise to come back with help

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Lecturing to our entrepreneurs in Matter Seven

Twelve years ago, I left full-time journalism because I realized couldn’t do anything about the challenges I saw all around me. The Internet was eating everything. I could write, edit, and design a newspaper, but I couldn’t make a newspaper have healthier income. I couldn’t figure out how, if it was even possible, to build a digital news product that people, especially people my age, would want and that would be economically viable. And, moreover, I knew I would never figure out how to do any of that if I were working in news full-time. …


Five principles to get the most out of our venture accelerator

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Twenty weeks go by in a blink. At Matter, our program can seem impossibly long when we begin with our bootcamp, and just as it gets hard to imagine what the end will be like, you lift your head and realize Demo Day is in just two weeks.

As a result of the pace of program, I often hear from our alumni entrepreneurs that there are things they wish they had done sooner, or attitudes and behaviors they had that were particularly critical to getting the most out of the experience. …


Video pitches from every Matter Seven team

Demo Day is the culmination of every Matter program. Matter Seven was no different. On two coasts, all 12 of the teams making up our current cohort pitched their hearts out, told their stories, and shared a collective vision of a more informed, inclusive, and empathetic society.

Fortunately, for anyone who wasn’t there (or for anyone who wants to revisit one of these incredible stories), we recorded everything, and it’s all available on our Vimeo channel. Below, please find every action-packed minute of demo day this year.

Matter Opening

Every Demo Day begins with introductory remarks from Matter’s Managing Director, Corey Ford. Typically, this serves as an update on our progress, news since the last time we got together, and the like. …

About

Pete Mortensen

Director of Program, San Francisco, at Matter.vc; co-author, Wired to Care; home brewer

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