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LIVE BLOG: Single-Subject News Conference

This weekend, the Tow Center for Digital Journalism, live blogged the Single-Subject News Conference. Read a play-by-play of the panels and reactions via Twitter, plus watch videos of each session.

Live Blogged by: Tow Fellow Anna Hiatt, Follow on Twitter @ahiatt

4:15pm-5:15pm PANEL: Creating Community Around a Niche Topic Lecture Hall; 30 min. panel/30 min. Q&A Chris Altchek (PolicyMic), Erika Johansson (Purpose), King Kaufman (Bleacher Report), and Craig Newman (Homicide Watch Chicago) will speak on their efforts to create community around a niche and focused topic, how to drive traffic through community building and increase interest around a niche topic. Moderator: Lara Setrakian (Tow Fellow/Syria Deeply).

5:17 p.m. ET: That’s a wrap, folks. Setrakian and Nolan are thanking everyone for coming together today. Recycle your conference badges!

5:07 p.m. ET: “Right now we’re trying to get everybody’s face recognized as a victim, not a gang-banger,” Newman says about Homicide Watch Chicago.

4:57 p.m. ET: Question from the floor about PolicyMic’s impressive statistics two years out of the gate. Altcheck responds that the first principle for the site was that quality content was king. In the beginning they were publishing five stories a day, now they publish about 60, he says. The second key thing to understand, he says, is that the key demographic of PolicyMic rarely goes to the homepage of websites. Normally they find all their content on Facebook and Twitter, so PolicyMic has made a point to optimize all their content for easier search and distribution on the social web.

4:54 p.m. ET: Smart 20-year-olds, Altchek says, don’t like commenting on the Internet. They like commenting on Facebook and Twitter. Further confirmation that the social web is a different type of web, on top of the network of sites we know as the Internet. AMH_3279

Craig Newman, the managing editor of Homicide Watch Chicago

4:50 p.m. ET: Most of the conversation on Homicide Watch Chicago is civil, except when they get linked by a place like the Drudge Report. Only then does the conversation take a turn for the racist or otherwise inappropriate. When a bad stream starts, Newman says, they turn off the comments, but that happens so rarely. When they started, Newman and the team worried that they’d get a lot of smack talk in the comments because of how much Chicago gangs use social media to brag about murders they’ve just committed, or ones they’re about to commit.

4:46 p.m. ET: Bleacher Report talking about they moderated the conversation to ensure that they were fostering a productive, interesting, and polite conversation.

4:38 p.m. ET: Kaufman of Bleacher Report talks about how their wealth of Twitter and Facebook accounts that they use to spread the news of their content, and to drive users to their site.

4:35 p.m. ET: Altcheck of PolicyMic is talking about using your super fans to help you build your site. They’ll drive traffic to you; they’ll help you test your features, and to help spread the word about what you’re doing. Altcheck says there are about 100,000 people engaging on the site every month. He’s also talking about turning your super fans into editorial contributors.

4:31 p.m. ET: 51% of Homicide Watch Chicago’s traffic is return traffic. That’s a wildly high statistic. People coming to the site are checking in on a specific case, or on their friend’s death.

4:24 p.m. ET: Last panel of the day folks! Newman of Homicide Watch Chicago is introducing himself and talking about the origin story of Homicide Watch. “The more our city talks about it, the better it is for our citizenry,” Newman said. He talks about Homicide Watch as a community.


3:00pm-4:00pm DISCUSSION: Covering the Beat (A Conversation with Jay Rosen) Lecture Hall Jay Rosen (Director, Studio 20: New Media and Digital Innovation, New York University Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute) and Lara Setrakian (Tow Fellow/Syria Deeply) discuss Covering the Beat.

4:06 p.m. ET: The wrap-up question: Is there still tension between bloggers and journalists? “I think words should be beautiful,” and “blog,” he says, is not a beautiful word. It doesn’t have much meaning anymore. But being a “blogger,” that’s something different. A blogger is an unedited person, who publishes online, and just tells you how they see it.

4:01 p.m. ET: “Part of what a free press means is that everyone is free to become the press,” Rosen says. Journalism education can be helpful and hurtful. You can be acculturated to believe that this is the way journalism should be done, or you could go out into the world a curious person and find out what you need to know, and ask questions that you want the answers to, without worrying about what your educators might say.

3:59 p.m. ET: Game coverage, Rosen says, is really easy. You don’t need that much to cover a beat. “That kind of forth, which is so familiar to us is actually an artifact of the decay of reporting.”

3:49 p.m. ET: “Human nature doesn’t help us understand why we have had recently this retreat from empiricism,” Rosen says, talking about confirmation bias.

3:42 p.m. ET: In order to compete, you have to be good enough to be shared, not by billboards, but by readers—the discerning consumer. Rosen is talking about why he’s not really interested in sponsored content, and why he’s sure that editorial publications are going to mess the whole thing up. This is how he describes sponsored content: “It should be messages from advertisers that are such quality that they can compete with everything else, but the trouble with that is the people who run the advertising and public relations industry can’t do that.”

3:35 p.m. ET: The unbundling of media won’t stop, and single-subject news sites are in response to unbundling. “What there isn’t room for is anymore sites like The Daily,” Rosen said. “The problem with that site, which I knew was going to fail, but everyone knew it was going to fail… if you asked the people who worked on The Daily, ‘Who it was for?’ They would say, ‘Everybody.’ ‘What is it about?’ ‘Everything.'” There’s not much future in that, because the site doesn’t teach you where to start. It doesn’t teach you how to read it.

3:30 p.m ET: “Faith, Certainty and the Presidency of George W. Bush” by Ron Suskind is a piece of journalism that, Rosen says, deeply affected him. If he were to create a single-subject news site, it would be born from the fear, anger, and anguish that that story provokes in him. 3:24 p.m. ET: If he were to build a single-subject news network, Rosen says, the first thing he’d do is a digital clip dive. He’d go online and find absolutely everything published about his subject and direct that flow of information into his new site. The one caveat is that there needs to be a smart filter on what’s allowed in and what’s not. From there he’d create a product, like a newsletter of all the smartly-filtered information that he’s channeled into his website. “And that’s where you would start,” Rosen says. “The simplest way to create value online is to save the user time.” 3:16 p.m. ET: Setrakian talks asks Rosen about the “networked beat,” a topic Rosen talks about on his blog. It goes a little something like this: a well informed crowd actively informs the few who hit publish. You want to encourage and enable the few active contributors to frequently and helpfully contribute. Think, too, about Wikipedia and the actively engaged community that writes, edits, writes again, and edits again the many millions of pages. 3:14 p.m. ET: If you’re going to be an effective single-subject news site, you need to really really know what you’re talking about. Your readers can’t respond to your news as they have responded to newspapers time in memorial. If they really know a topic, they can’t say, That’s not true! They got it wrong. Rosen says that a site, like Syria Deeply, has to have the reaction, Yes, they know what they’re talking about. AMH_3259 Jay Rosen, a journalism professor at NYU, speaks to the topic of single-subject news sites. 3:10 p.m. ET: “I believe news is adult eduction,” Setrakian says. She and Rosen are chatting about “The 100 Percent Solution: For Innovation in News.” Try, he says, to cover 100 percent of one topic, say, for example, red Corvettes. It is impossible, but in going through the process, you’ll learn something. In failing, you won’t actually have failed.


1:45pm-2:45pm PANEL: Mixing News Models & Mainstream Media  Lecture Hall; 30 min. panel/30 min. Q&A Debbie Galant (New Jersey News Commons), Bill Grueskin (Dean of Academic Affairs, Columbia Journalism School) and Robert Mackey (The New York Times)  and Kelly Niknejad (Tehran Bureau), will speak on traditional media’s vantage point on the single-subject news platform and its evolution. Moderator: Lara Setrakian (Tow Fellow/Syria Deeply). AMH_3195   Debbie Galant of New Jersey News Commons 2:42 p.m. ET: Grueskin remembers back in the day, when he worked for the Miami Herald, watching people pull the sports and arts sections from newspapers and tossing the rest. People, he says, ahve been disaggregating forever.  [Check out some of Grueskin’s writing about the business of journalism in the digital age on CJR.] 2:39 p.m. ET: “A blog would often serve as a repository for stuff that wasn’t good enough for a newspaper,” Grueskin said. “Even if we had a good post it would get buried by the crap that editors kept tossing over the fence.” That was the blog of yesteryear, a repository for the less-than-news stories. This goes back to Owen’s question to Mackey: What is a blog today?

2:37 p.m. ET: Taylor Owen, Research Director for the Tow Center for Digital Journalism, asks Mackey, “What’s a blog post?” This is a followup to the Mackey’s statement about how Twitter now resembles what blogs were supposed to be back in the day.

2:33 p.m. ET: Niknejad talks about how she and Tehran Bureau work with other news organizations. It’s not about competition, but about partnership. She doesn’t want to be the flavor of the month. She wants to dig up stories that other places are too busy to notice and follow. “Most of the immigrants, like me, to journalism, are basically translators,” she said. “For some reason when it comes to covering Iran, we’re not capable of having the distance; we’re not capable of saying something’s a commentary, or analysis.”

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Bill Grueskin, Dean of Academic Affairs at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, talks about the early identity of blogs.

2:30 p.m. ET: Grueskin says that the more impenetrable a subject, like diamond mining, the more you can charge for news about it. Galant echoes the statement, “You have to be bible in order to charge money.”

2:09 p.m. ET: “I don’t know why anyone thinks having a gun to your head, reporting on Iran is a good idea,” Niknejad said. The goal of a site like Tehran Bureau is to give context to an important story, not to parachute in and give a context-less snapshot. She was angered by the stories about Iran that she read in places like The New York Times. They were thin and empty, and without the necessary context that an obsessed site like a single subject news site can provide. During her time at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, Niknejad, whose masters adviser was former Dean Nick Lemann, reported on Iran from New York. She wanted to know what it meant to cover the world from so far away.

2:03 p.m. ET: We started a bit late, folks. Sorry about that. Without further ado: Mackey is talking now about the inception of The Lede Blog, which, if you haven’t read it, you should. What is so interesting and important about blogging, Mackey always thought, was the ability of a blog to point to other good content on the web, regardless of whether your home institution is the one that published, or broke the story. Twitter, he says, seems to be embodying what he thought blogs were originally supposed to be about.


12:45pm-1:45pm PANEL: Case Study: Politics in the US Lecture Hall; 30 min. panel/30 min. Q&A Elesha Barnette (Politic365), Tom Goldstein (SCOTUSblog), Cristian Salazar (Gotham Gazette), and Micah Sifry (TechPresident) will speak on the trend of politically oriented single-subject news platforms in the United States on the national level, for niche audiences, and on the city level. Moderator: Brooks Jackson (FactCheck.org)

>> Check out photographs from today’s sessions.

1:44 p.m. ET: Last question for this panel. Barnette says that she and Politic365 use Uberflip to help present their content.

1:41 p.m. ET: Sifry says that he shoots for a 30% open rate on TechPresident’s emails. Because they’re not in an election cycle, it’s harder to get readers engaged. But the NSA and Snowden story, that’s their bread an butter; also, the intersection of politics, policy, and technology are huge.

1:37 p.m. ET: Goldstein talks about how, when the Supreme Court goes on vacation, it’s not great for content. They can’t do anything about that, but it is important to be on readers’ radar, and to become an important part of their daily/weekly news diet.

1:30 p.m. ET: Sifry wonders about how the Obama administration’s extreme control of the flow of information has forever changed Washington politics. He doubts that the next administration will be more open. “I’m sorry that Obama is disillusioning you,” Sifry said. Jackson adds, “It’s not just the White House,” and then he went on to talk about Richard Nixon and foreign U.S. engagement under that president.

1:21 p.m. ET: Jackson says that he and FactCheck.org are about “to launch a nation-wide search for a sugar daddy.”

1:17 p.m. ET: The takeaway about revenue from this conference is, someone has to front the money, and if you believe in the cause enough, you should go ahead and do it yourself. “The journalism is a loss leader, I’ll be honest,” Sifry said. They get about $30,000 a year from subscribers, and there are times that he wonders if they shouldn’t just get rid of the subscriptions. Their first attempt to raise revenue was by holding a conference.

1:14 p.m. ET: Political reporters are as bad as politicians, Sifry said, “They don’t know the difference between a server and a waiter.” (That got a bit of a laugh.) The Obama campaign was far more sophisticated than any other campaign when it came to social media and online communication, and Sifry began to feel a bit like Ahab and the White Whale. He wanted to shine light on what Obama’s campaign was doing better, but they were so good at hiding their expertise.

1:12 p.m. ET: TechPresident saw not only how the candidates were using the Internet, but how the Internet community was using and embracing and digesting candidates. This was an insight from seeing that the Students for Barack Obama Facebook had more than 20,000 fans before Obama had declared his official candidacy for the 2008 election. “In 2007, we were the first site to cover how the candidates were doing on social media,” Sifry said.

1:09 p.m. ET: “A lot of times the big city papers don’t pay attention tot he small city councils,” Salazar said.

1:03 p.m. ET: For the first few years, Goldstein funded SCOTUS Blog out of his own pocket, and it got to the point where he was shelling out about $250,000 a year to keep it going. Their peak readership is 1 million simultaneous readers, and their biggest day saw 6 million hits. “It’s because we play a couple of different roles now.” Not only do they report on the court, but they also help to archive and make sense of the court’s decisions, which, Goldstein says, are rather hidden. He calls SCOTUS Blog a “public service.” The AP reported this morning that the Supreme Court won’t grant SCOTUS Blog a press pass. “It’s kind of weird, and a gross First Amendment violation,” Goldstein said.

12:59 p.m. ET: Barnette is talking about a few of the in-depth stories she’s worked on at Politic365, and her organization’s fidelity to following a story as it evolves. Now Jackson asks Goldstein how SCOTUS Blog got the Obamacare ruling right when every other organization got it wrong, “How did you do that?” Goldstein says, humorously that SCOTUS Blog can read English. [Here’s the blog post in which Goldstein addresses SCOTUS Blog getting the Obamacare decision right, in a sea of a misinformation.]

12:52 p.m. ET: Hi, folks! We’re back from lunch and launching into our next panel. Right now Brooks Jackson is introducing the conversation. (Also, watch out for a post with photos from the morning. Coming soon.)


10:45 am-11:45am PANEL: Business Models in the Making Moderator: Lara Setrakian (Tow Fellow/Syria Deeply) Jake Batsell (Knight Fellow, The Texas Tribune) Dan Fletcher (Beacon Reader) Alexa O’Brien (United States v. Manning, United States v. WikiLeaks, carwinb.net) Chad O’Carroll (North Korea News)

AMH_3146   Dan Fletcher of Beacon Reader

11:43 a.m. ET: O’Carroll drops some knowledge: You can make money on anything if you’re devoted to it, and if you produce good work.

11:41 a.m. ET: Setrakian talks about how some publications, which can’t afford to pay much, direct work to their journalists to help them earn money. She hopes that Syria Deeply begins to be able to do that.

11:37 a.m. ET: “What’s your pleasure model?” one audience member asks. To which O’Brien answers, “I have absolutely no personal life. What I’ve learned over the last three years is that I’m absolutely immune to cabin fever.” If the work is meaningful, a solitary life isn’t a burden, or a pain.

11:32 a.m. ET: “Whatever it takes, especially in the early years, to make sure you have a viable model,” Setrakian said. Make money however you can to fund more journalism, without compromising your organization’s editorial guidelines and journalistic efforts.

11:28 a.m. ET: Audience member who has worked for the Financial Times, among other places, says that he started off by producing the material for free, while he explored different revenue models. A metered paywall, he found, was highly effective. He and his organization had an “opaque model.” They’d go out and try to make money and allow their clients to tell them what was a high or low price-point. (One librarian expressed relief that they were going to charge a $500 a year subscription; she said she’d thought it was going to be expensive.) 11:24 a.m. ET:  “It’s more important who’s listening to you than how many people are listening,” O’Brien says. 11:15 a.m. ET: O’Brien doesn’t think that the site she produces, and the information she reports is easily monetizable. The way she was able to make ends meet was by getting vendor discounts. One person gave her a greatly reduced price on a PHP database. In another case, she got reduced rent to live and work in the area where the trial was taking place. 11:12 a.m. ET: Alexa O’Brien made her name covering the Chelsea/Bradley Manning trial. “When Manning’s trial began, I knew that the government was going to manage the message, because there was no public transcripts, no access to court filings,” O’Brien says. She started out just wanting to write and record as much detail about the case as possible. 11:10 a.m. ET: Merchandising has actually helped North Korea News raise revenue. O’Carroll holds up a calendar rife with pictures of daily life in N.K. “My hope is the country will open more to the point that we can send N.K. tours,” he says. To which, Setrakian adds, “Journo tourism.” (That should be a hashtag.)

11:07 a.m. ET: We’re switching over to talking with Chad O’Carroll (@chadocl), the Director and Managing Editor of North Korea News. When they launched a paywall, readers revolted saying, how dare you charge? The “nuclear price point” was $99 a month. “Everything is paywalled. There’s no more free content.” O’Carroll recognizes that it’s hard for journalists to know that their stories won’t be read all that widely, but, in order to pay for the production of journalism content, you have to pass on the cost to readers.

11:04 a.m. ET: Having a hugely diverse range of donors means that The Texas Tribune has the ability and resources to say no to donors who don’t accept their basic rules, which are 1. no jerks, and 2. no strings attached. Batsell says that Evan Smith, Editor in Chief and CEO of the Tribune, is pretty relentless in scanning the landscape of political donors through public methods and approaching them.

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Jake Batsell talks about The Texas Tribune’s first year of revenue.

11:01 a.m. ET: Texas Tribune just raised more than $60k in their recent Kickstarter campaign to livestream the 2014 race for the Texas governorship. If you’re interested in what the Texas Tribune is doing, and learning, check out http://news-biz.org/. Now Setrakian has some followup questions for Batsell (@jbatsell).

10:50 a.m. ET: Jake Batsell is introducing “Evolving Revenue Streams at The Texas Tribune.” Here was The Texas Tribune’s revenue breakdown in its first year: 37% came from individual donors, 22% from foundations, 13% from corporate sponsorship/advertising, 8% from membership, and 7% from events.The donors represented the who’s who is Texas politics, the movers and shakers, from all political backgrounds.


9:30am- 10:30am PANEL: Success Stories and Lessons Learned Lecture Hall; 30 min. panel/30 min. Q&A Brian Kovalesky (StartUp Beat), Jim O’Shea (Chicago News Cooperative), David Sassoon (InsideClimate News), and Kelly Virella (The Urban Thinker) will speak on the successes and lessons learned in starting a single-subject news platform. Moderator: Taylor Owen (Tow Center Research Director) Live Blogged by: Akim Oyedele, M.S. Columbia Journalism School, Follow on Twitter @AkinOyedele 10:28 a.m. ET – An M.A. student at the J-school asks about the skills that journalists should have to work on single subject news websites. Sassoon says InsideClimate News is “very old school,” and their reporters have great investigative reporting skills. 10:25 a.m. ET – Question from the floor: How do you defend lawsuits with little or no cash? Virella advises that pro-bono lawyers could be of help. “Understand the basics of libel and how you could be held liable for what is published,” Kovalesky says. 10:18 a.m. ET – On his biggest mistakes, O’Shea advises that board members should have a passion for the business,  and single subject news sites should invest in marketing as much as they do in the journalism. He wishes he had raised more money and started a bit later than he did. Sasson adds that his biggest mistake was not asking for more money. “You need a good spreadsheet,” he says. Investors want to see a good business approach to single subject websites and journalists need to learn this.

10:13 a.m. ET – The moderator asks what the panelists’ biggest failures were.

10:04 a.m. ET – “Partnership with the New York Times gave us instant credibility,” O’Shea says about the Chicago News Cooperative. He adds that it had its problems, and stresses the need to build an individual brand “We were living in the shadow of the New York Times and we couldn’t break out of their shadow to do it on our own.” He adds that people thought they were part of The Times and were reluctant to donate as a result. 9:53 a.m. ET – Virella says it is not enough to just do great journalism. “I don’t have the energy to do this for the next twenty years.”

9:48 a.m. ET – Kovalesky says his definition of success is his interaction with the StartUp Beat’s readers, particularly entrepreneurs who receive media and customer attention because of stories that are published. He says analytics are a thorn in his side. “What really tells you something is when people are impacted by what you do.”

9:45 a.m. ET – The four panelists briefly explain what their websites are about and why they were started. Brian Kovalesky says Start Up Beat is about entrepreneurs around the world, to shine a light on people that are doing innovative things and don’t have connections to the big startup networks. It was started as a side project in graduate school to fill a hole in startup journalism. Jim O’Shea from the Chicago News Cooperative 2 pages of news twice a week for the Midwest edition of the New York Times. It was folded after two and a half years – he says he did not raise enough money at the beginning and started too fast. David Sassoon of InsideClimate News says there was a gap in the coverage of climate change. “It wasn’t been covered well. I convinced my funders that we should start a blog and see what happens,” he says. They started at a time – around 2008 and 2009 – when the environmental beat was hit hard by the financial downturn in journalism. “We’ve gone through a whole evolution,” he says, from blogging to longform investigative pieces. Kelly Virella says The Urban Thinker is about eccentric and obscure aspects of black culture and politics. She says there were fundraising problems at the start.


Send your questions for the panelists via Twitter: #NicheNews Friday, 5pm (EST): http://cuj.tw/17HVRIn 5:00pm-6:30pm: Kickoff Session Innovating Mainstream Media:The Role of Single-Subject Websites  A Conversation among Jon Williams (Managing Editor for International News at ABC News), Kevin Delaney (Co-Founder and Editor-in-Chief at Quartz) and Lara Setrakian (Tow Fellow/Syria Deeply) LIVE BLOG >> follow the conversation on Twitter: @hypertopical and #nicheNews That’s all for tonight, folks. Catch us again tomorrow for a full-day discussion about single-subject news sites. If you’d still like to sign up for tomorrow’s conference, click here.

Live Blogged by: Tow Fellow Anna Hiatt, Follow on Twitter @ahiatt

6:30 p.m. ET Setrakian wrapping up the conversation asks Williams what he would create or change at ABC. “With regards to the last question, I just came back to thinking: Really, we’re all about ideas. And it doesn’t really matter how those ideas manifest themselves,” he said. “The most important thing in any organization is a culture of innovation and creativity, and that’s what I hope we can foster and nurture, because without that, there is no future.”

6:28 p.m. ET Last question of the night, and it’s for Delaney: “How often are the journalists also developers?” Delaney responds, “I don’t think every journalist should be coding, but every news organization needs journalists who are also coders.” Quartz’s developers have built Chartbuilder (which is available on GitHub).

6:26 p.m. ET “If you have the image that no one else has got, there’s real value in that,” Williams said. (As Weegee said, ” F/8 and be there.”)

6:20 p.m. ET “I don’t think we think of ourselves as TV people, or digital people anymore,” Williams said. The business model, he went on to say, doesn’t support bloated teams, or journalists who can’t do everything on their own. The traditional team model–a cameraman, a producer, a reporter, etc.–works best for breaking news, but the single-man teams are more cost-effective and thus allow for more exploratory reporting.

6:16 p.m ET “The future of journalism is written in code as much as anything,” Delaney says. He advocates for product developers being in the same room as journalists and says that every Quartz developer has a byline on the site. One of their developers, who’s into cycling, helped cover the Tour de France for Quartz, because he was more informed than any of their other reporters on the subject. “You need the right ad sales people, who are not looking at every turn to corrupt the product,” Delaney said. 6:11 p.m. ET Williams says he trusts sites like Syria Deeply because of the passion and obsession their reporters exhibit for a topic, and for their obvious expertise. Their coverage is hyper-focused, and thus, more insightful than parachute reporting would be.

6:03 p.m. ET When Syria Deeply launched, Setrakian didn’t think the site would last as long as it has. She viewed it as a “popup site” and says she believes that a single subject site is “… only meant to last as long as the obsession does,” Setrakian said.

5:58 p.m. ET Jon Williams recommends reading “It’s the Golden Age of News” by Bill Keller, which appeared earlier this week in The New York Times.

5:55 p.m. ET Setrakian asks Delaney about how live events play a role in Quartz’s business model, and how the organization ensures that they’re adhering to editorial guidelines. Atlantic Media has rigorous guidelines for live events, and the company’s journalists discuss extensively the editorial and ethical boundaries in advance of any events among themselves.

5:50 p.m. ET “News isn’t free. There’s a cost to quality journalism. And people are willing to pay for it,” Williams said. “Four, five, six years ago, everybody thought news was free. And it ain’t. It costs a lot of money.”

Single Subject News Conference

5:45 p.m. ET The most important stories, like an investigation on pharmaceutical companies, are not necessarily the most popular stories, like an essay on the future of automobiles. The hard thing, Delaney says, is to find a way to support the important stories that draw less traffic with the stories that are less important, but bring in the dollars. “What’s frustrating about some of the discussion about sponsored content is that they assume people are idiots,” Delaney said.

5:40 p.m. ET “We want to be part of a conversation. There’s no point in having a one-way conversation today. That’s not what news is,” Williams said. Delaney responds: It doesn’t matter how great your content is if people don’t share it.

5:34 p.m. ET Delaney says Quartz took cues from Pew research about when people read news in order to schedule most effectively their editorial content. They also responsively designed Quartz, using HTML5, to make sure readers could interact with their content the way they want to, whether on a smartphone, tablet, or desktop.

5:27 p.m. ET “The temptation is always to look over your shoulder at what was,” Jon Williams said. “The trick is to focus on the future and to make sure they’ve got a promising future, and in so many ways, the opportunities now are far greater actually, because you can do far more with less. When I began quite a long time ago now, the idea that you would send a reporter on their own somewhere…people would have thought you’re mad.” More thrifty spending in newsrooms is freeing up money to allow reporters to get an economy ticket, go by themselves, report, and not feel compelled to tell stories that aren’t worth it.

5:21 p.m. ET Lara Setrakian asks Kevin J. Delaney why Atlantic Media believed it was worthwhile to launch a single-subject news site like Quartz. “They saw the opportunity to create a new brand and a new team around this that wasn’t the Atlantic site,” Delaney said. “It’s easier for things to grow outside of traditional business structures.” He continue to emphasize the freedom that startups have to break the mold and try out new things. Quartz’s founding mandate was to be “bold and creative,” to be digitally native, and to be designed first for the tablet, second for mobile, and third for the desktop.

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Send your questions for the panelists via Twitter: #NicheNews

Anna Hiatt is a Tow Fellow working on the Tow Center’s Longform Journalism Project at the Tow Center for Digital Journalism.  The Longform Journalism Project is a project made possible by generous funding from both The Tow Foundation and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. The goal of the Longform Journalism Project is to examine and define digital longform content. Follow Anna Hiatt on Twitter @ahiatt. To learn more about the Tow Center Fellowship Program, please contact the Tow Center’s Research Director Taylor Owen: taylor.owen@columbia.edu.