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The making of the Texas Tribune
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The making of the Texas Tribune


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John Thornton, 45, a successful venture capitalist with Austin Ventures, co-founded The Texas Tribune in 2009 in Austin, Texas. …

John Thornton, 45, a successful venture capitalist with Austin Ventures, co-founded The Texas Tribune in 2009 in Austin, Texas.
Thornton received his MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business and his BA summa cum laude from Trinity University. And although he has helped countless entrepreneurs launch successful businesses, the Texas Tribune was the first venture he ever started.

Published in: News & Politics, Business

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  • 1. The making of
    Interview with Co-Founder John Thornton
    By L.A. Lorek
  • 2. Texas Tribune Co-Founder John Thornton
    • Thornton was working as a successful venture capitalist and general partner of Austin Ventures in Austin, Texas, when he launched the Texas Tribune in Nov. of 2009.
    • 3. Thornton started the site with Evan Smith, former editor of the Texas Monthly magazine and Ross Ramsey, former Houston Chronicle Austin bureau chief. Next, they hired a team of experienced reporters.
    (Photo: courtesy of Texas Tribune)
  • 4.
  • 5. The evolution of The Texas Tribune
    Thornton wanted to create a nonprofit nonpartisan news site to help Texas citizens better understand the big issues facing their state and to become more informed voters.
  • 6.
  • 7. The big risk was that no one would support the site. But he collaborated with other news organizations like The New York Times to increase visibility. The site gets more than 300,000 unique visitors every month.
  • 8.
  • 9. Also Thornton worried about expenses. The site is 50 percent more expensive than budgeted. So they raised additional funds ($7 million to date) and have launched multiple products to create new revenue streams to support operations.
  • 10. Photo credit: Smithsonian Magazine
  • 11. What makes the Texas Tribune a success?
    The leadership under Editor Evan Smith and the staff of experienced reporters.
    The site’s focus on database journalism.
    Its mix of donations, memberships, corporate sponsorships and niche products.
    Its narrow focus on politics. It does not try to cover everything.
  • 12. Photo by: New York Times
  • 13. Characteristics of John Thornton
    ADD – He likes to multi-task. He kept his day job as a general partner with Austin Ventures and spends most of his nights and weekends and free time on the Texas Tribune.
    Curious – When he’s interested in a venture, he asks lots of questions.
    Pretty passionate – He’s willing to do whatever it takes to make the Texas Tribune a success.
    Competitive – He doesn’t like to lose.
  • 14.
  • 15. Three key takeaways
    No. 1: A nonprofit news startup needs a wealthy backer to anchor its philanthropic efforts. The site will be much more expensive than expected. Raise as much money as possible before launching.
  • 16. No. 2: Must collaborate with existing news organizations. Partnerships lead to greater exposure and attracts new customers.
    Second Takeaway
  • 17. No. 3: Need to create multiple revenue streams within the site from niche products, conferences, sponsorships and more.
    Third Takeaway
  • 18. The End