In 2009, concerned about the decline of local news, two friends and I co-founded Berkeleyside, a digital news site for the city of Berkeley, CA. As longtime journalists, we figured we were well-positioned to help figure out ways to create a vibrant site, one that broke news and built community.
Over the next 13 years we tried numerous approaches to sustainability and learned many things along the way. We started as an LLC, became a B Corp, raised $1 million from readers in a direct public offering (the first media organization in the country to do so) and finally converted to a non-profit. We won awards for our journalism, launched newsletters and a membership program, held events, and solicited funding from large organizations like the Google News Initiative and American Journalism project. Other foundations awarded Cityside (the new name for the nonprofit) funds, as did dozens of high-net worth individuals. Berkeleyside was twice named the “best community news site by the northern California chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. In 2020, LION Publishers named Cityside the Publisher of the Year.
“Cityside is among the most successful and best-emulated local news organizations in America,” said Jim Friedlich, executive director of The Lenfest Institute. “The team has demonstrated both editorial excellence and long-term business sustainability. The business has scaled over the years from its Berkeley roots to a larger regional footprint. Along the way, revenue, product, and news leadership have continued to mature. The founders and continuing leadership should be very proud indeed.”
When I left in June 2022, Cityside had more than 23 employees and a $4 million budget – quite a change from the time it was three of us bootstrapping things.
I have worked with digital news organizations informally and as an audit/analyst for LION Publishers. I’ve looked at the business side of sites to find their pain points and offered suggestions on how to address them. I have spoken at conferences on how to build a sustainable news organization. I always keep the importance of good journalism in my mind while making suggestions.
I serve on the board of two news organizations: Highway 29 Media, a news organization addressing the local news ecosystem in the Napa Valley and Mission Local, one of the most distinguished news outlets in San Francisco.
I would love to help your news organization get to the next level. Please contact me.