New Venture

Last summer, I stopped updating this blog, except for the Twitter feed, because we had started a transaction to buy the shares of the families that had owned our company for nearly 130 years, and create a structure that is owned by a trust for the benefit of the employees (ESOP).  We completed our transaction with the family in December, 2012, and finalized our new governance structure last month.  What has changed?

Not much, yet everything.  We have the same management team and the same board of directors.   Our view of our changing environment, and our need to make fundamental changes has not changed.  However, those who make those changes happen will be the beneficiaries. In essence, we have created a structure to support those who create value in the emerging environment.

In preparing to write this, I reviewed the summaries from 2011 and 2012, and revised our Elevator Speech.  It is nice to see that the themes remain the same, and to note the progress we have made, but it also highlights how hard it is for individuals and communities to change narratives.

Last month, I was asked by Jim Burke to lead a team in our newsroom to create information differently in the first instance by building substantive and authentic networks, reflecting the insights of those networks digitally, and only then reflecting those insights in our core print and broadcast products.  After some planning with management, and a vacation, we started talking more broadly with the newsroom last week and announced this to the company yesterday.  As noted in the updated Elevator Speech

Our journalists cannot presume community, and journal about it.  We need constructors of local, actionable information, deeply engaged with core contributors within selected communities of interest, and in connection with those who can also contribute to that effort in service to the larger community of interest. … We announced this week that I will be working with Jim BurkeKiran Sood and Sarah Binder to develop a model for this process focused on how we create value in Iowa’s Creative Corridor.

I am now trying to figure out how I boil this all down to 530 words for a printed announcement in The Gazette next week.  My first inkling is to make the theme of that announcement an invitation.   In order to make this work, we need the community to play with us in new ways.  We need to invite them to do so.

Your thoughts on how I approach this announcement?  Key points?




3 thoughts on “New Venture”

  1. My quick advice is to be direct. What specific actions will people see under the new model? How will you measure and adapt as you mature under this model? Explain your vision for journlism and how this fits in. What are the expectations for the people within this community?

    Answering those questions will go a long way in my view. You’re on the right path. They don’t teach this stuff. It’s more about relationships than traditional journalism, and that’s a scary proposition for all. And it’s not about a job, it’s a way of life with work thrown into it.

  2. Chuck, we’ve talked about how SourceMedia is the guardian of the local information “public square”.

    The invitation to the public could include that
    (a) it is safe to participate, with adequate controls
    (b) the revenue model incentivizes content providers that build community versus favoring celebrity, conflict or establishment views,
    (c) that there are adequate rewards for doing so and
    (d) that there is a transparent way to measure success of the platform, so that there is public accountability.

    Glad to continue to watch this emerge!

  3. Thank you Jason and Christian. We are trying to provide the context for our effort at

    Christian – we are just starting the discussion of compensation for regular meaningful contributors, and are interested in all ideas for implementation.

    Thanks for the support!


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