A Lot More Experiments: Open Matter
Today, we launch Open Matter: Local News Bootcamps with Google News Lab, News Media Alliance, and 4 Top J. schools.
When the old model is broken, what will work in its place? The answer is nothing will work, but everything might. Now is the time for lots and lots of experiments.— Clay Shirky
Matter was founded in 2012 as a place for experiments in media to happen, from both outside and inside existing media institutions. To date, we’ve supported 61 media start-ups (with 12 more to be announced shortly) and 12 media institutions in testing new media products and business models in ways to meet the real needs of their audience, leverage emerging technologies, and seek sustainable business models. And through each of these journeys these intra- and entrepreneurs have transformed their cultures to become resilient and nimble in the face of uncertainty.
We’re proud of the people and institutions we’ve touched in the first five years of Matter, but we’ve always wanted to be able to offer the immersive Matter experience to more innovators beyond the select companies we are able to invest in or the media companies that are big enough to invest in us. That’s why today I’m proud to announce that, with the support of Google News Lab, we are opening up a core part of the Matter experience to local news organizations all over the country.
Each member of the Matter cohort to date has started their Matter journey with an immersive bootcamp that teaches them how to build profitable media ventures through an audience-centered, prototype-driven process called design thinking. This bootcamp is the core foundation of the Matter experience. And, now, we are opening that up to a whole new set of people.
Over the next 6 months, Matter will be running four Local News Bootcamps in four different regions of the United States in partnership with Google News Lab. And your for-profit local news organization can apply to attend for free right here.
Led by Matter’s Pete Mortensen and with tremendous support from the News Media Alliance in getting the word out to their members and helping select the winners, we will hold four tuition-free design and entrepreneurial thinking bootcamps for journalists, news businesspeople, designers, and technologists. And we’ll do it in four different regions to be as local as possible for as many publications as possible. At least 20 publications will join the training, and we’ll have the honor of helping run at least 120 outstanding individuals working on the front lines of the local news business through our bootcamp.
We’re also partnering with four top-tier journalism programs: CUNY Graduate School of Journalism; the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute at the Missouri School of Journalism; the James M. Cox Jr. Institute for Journalism Innovation, Management & Leadership at the University of Georgia’s Henry W. Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication; and UC Berkeley Advanced Media Institute. Their excitement and support in helping to get this initiative off the ground will provide our bootcamp participants with as rich and experiential a learning environment as we offer to our entrepreneurs and partners, anchored in the environments where the next generation of local news leaders will develop.
At critical moments in our history, Google has helped Matter to reach our next level, starting from the first time Google News Lab founder and director Steve Grove reached out to ask how he could assist with our mission. That ultimately led to them joining as our first technology partner and later helping making it possible for us to expand to New York. Now, we’re joining up to broaden our impact, hand in hand. We couldn’t ask for better partners in that journey.
As we start our sixth year, it’s clear we need a lot more experiments if we’re going to move the needle. Fast. The trends in the media industry that drove our founding have worsened. Newsrooms continue to get smaller. Ad rates continue to plummet. Trust in the media ebbs ever lower.
In order to think bigger about how to change media for good, we need to think smaller: community by community, publication by publication, station to station. This is at the heart of this new collaboration.
Yet the numbers consistently show that, while people don’t trust “the media,” they tend to put greater trust in their local news sources, the outlets that are embedded in their communities and have a stake in their success. In order to think bigger about how to change media for good, we need to think smaller: community by community, publication by publication, station to station. This is at the heart of this new collaboration.
Open call for inspired teams from local media organizations of all sizes.
Starting today, we are launching an open application for teams from local for-profit news organizations to apply to join us for these workshops. The biggest challenge in a sustainable local media landscape is in finding sustainable revenue in a for-profit environment, not just philanthropy and public funding. We don’t shy from a challenge, which is why we’re addressing it head on. (We’re also very interested in running the same type of bootcamps for public media and other local non-profit institutions, so stay tuned for other opportunities in the future or reach out email@example.com if you’d like to support such an initiative.)
The application lives here, but these are the pertinent details for interested organizations and individuals:
- Apply as a team; each accepted publication can bring up to six individuals, so think through exactly who would best benefit from the training and widen impact.
- Think multidisciplinary; innovation happens when editorial, business, tech, and design are working in sync, not as isolated functions in a larger organization. We’ll look favorably on applicants who show a good mix.
- Think local; we’re not hoping to inspire the next Buzzfeed or theSkimm, providing a new take on national or even global content. We’re hoping to equip the local news industry to find new opportunities to connect with their communities and make money by providing the insight and reporting that only great local publications can.
- Think regionally. We’ll start in New York the week of April 23, then hit Missouri the week of May 7, and Berkeley and Georgia the week of June 25.
Applications open starting today and will remain open for each location until about 45 days prior to each bootcamp. (So if you’re interested in New York, please get your applications in by 3/7!) The first five accepted publications in each region will receive a guaranteed six slots in one bootcamp, tuition-free, with included breakfast and lunch for all three days. Publications will be responsible for any travel costs and other meals for their participating team members. Space for other publications at varying headcount may be available beyond the initial five for each site, space and quality of applicants permitting.
If you’ve got questions, please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We can’t wait to hear from you, understand your excitement and hesitations, and build an experience that will make a material difference across the mosaic of Community news.
And if you haven’t yet clicked earlier, apply here!
Matter is an SF & NYC-based startup accelerator and venture capital firm grounded in the principles of design thinking that supports early-stage media entrepreneurs and mission-aligned media institutions building scalable ventures that make society more informed, inclusive, and empathetic.