Briefing by Kristin Nolan and Lara Setrakian, Tow Fellows at Columbia University, delivered at the Digital News Revenue Summit hosted by The Texas Tribune and Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas, April 3, 2014.
The Startup Newsroom: Lessons From the Single-Subject News Project: #newsrev briefing
Lessons from the Single-
Subject News Project
Lara Setrakian and Kristin Nolan
Tow Center for Digital Journalism
News Deeply is an award-winning new media and technology company
that fuses news, information, technology and digital design.
Our vision is to simplify the user experience of complex information,
creating information products that serve a mix of media, enterprise and
The News Deeply platform provides a single-subject design, allowing
clients to capture complex issues in a simple, unified dashboard, with a
highly engaging user interface design.
About Us: News Deeply
The Deeply Model
& Public Health
Our First Platform: Syria Deeply
Syria Deeply was a crisis reporting project
that incorporated the latest technological
tools of the day, all to track an ongoing
conflict. The aim was to improve the art of
storytelling with user-centric design.
Our Next Project: Arctic Deeply
With our partner, the World Policy
Institute, we are incubating Arctic
Deeply, an exploration of an issue that
effects the planet and all people on it.
The Arctic story is a bell-weather for
climate change and its human impact.
Three Rising Trends:
• Hypertopical Publishing
• Niche/Vertical News
• The Journalist-Entrepreneur
Skills Required: A Fusion of Toolkits
• Eye for the Story
• Subject Matter
• “Lean Startup” Methodology
• Management Skills
• Project Management Skills
• Financial Literacy
• Technology Literacy
• Sales Capacity
• Operational Grit
Who We’re Talking About
Our study captured a wide variety of single-subject news sites
covering specialized beats, from arts & culture to geographical
issues to science.
Common Cause: Shared Motives and
The majority of single-subject news sites are attempting to fill a gap
in mainstream media coverage while providing and maintaining
“What I noticed with these outlets [entrepreneurial
start ups] were that they were still an insider’s
game…entrepreneurs that aren’t plugged into the
scene are ignored…”
-Brian Kovalesky, StartUp Beat
Contrasting Models: Target Audience,
Structural Setup, and Major Media Ties
niche, many sites
sites come in a
lot of shapes,
forms and sizes
MAJOR MEDIA TIES
Some of our
case study sites
inside of or allied
with a major
Shared Emphasis on Engagement and
Single subject websites value engagement and impact over traffic.
We’re not showing traffic numbers as evidence of our impact.
We’re pointing to things like our Reuters collaboration and we
developed others as we went along to show how we were impacting
the conversation [on climate change].
We found a way to have an impact on the conversation without
having to build a giant website with huge traffic. It’s very expensive
and difficult to do. So we found high-impact, low-cost solutions for
doing our work. That was attractive to funders.
-David Sassoon, InsideClimate News
Like any Startup, They’re Either…
…and they’re all looking for revenue.
Diversified Revenue Streams
For the most part, single-subject sites seek alternative
• Peak return rate was 60%; mean was 39%.
• Event drivers followed major new events or special
events within the niche.
• Between peaks, single-subject sites identify their
“super user”— the die-hard readers of their topic, the
community they serve and monetize.
The industry is following us around. This season, for the first
time ever, ESPN has a reporter assigned to every single
NFL team. So they have 32 beat writers, and they never
had that before. And that’s something we’ve had since the
beginning… That’s the innovation.
- King Kaufman, Bleacher Report