By end of 2021, Indiegraf will have partner publishers in over 50 locations.
VANCOUVER — Indiegraf, a fast-growing platform for independent community news publishers, announces the first communities in its U.S. expansion: Brooklyn, Baltimore and Shasta County.
“We are thrilled to welcome Bushwick Daily, Bloc by Block News and Shasta Scout to Indiegraf,” said Erin Millar, CEO and co-founder of Indiegraf. “These publishers represent the kind of independent media we believe can play a big part in solving the local news crisis: genuinely engaged with their communities in a bottom-up way and serving both the civic news and cultural needs of their readers.”
Indie Capital investment in Bushwick Daily marks Indiegraf’s first U.S. funding deal
Established in 2010, Bushwick Daily was founded by Katarina Kocses to cover the vibrant arts and cultural life in north Brooklyn. When Alec Meeker took over in 2018, he began to expand the focus to community politics and diversify its contributor base.
“Bushwick Daily is partnering up with Indiegraf to expand our grassroots local reporting and continue our mission of elevating the voices and stories that have been traditionally silenced and suppressed,” said Meeker.
According to internal Indiegraf research, New York State is one of the most local news poor regions in the United States per capita. Despite being home to some of the largest media brands in the world, many communities — especially Latinx and Black neighbourhoods — are severely underserved by local media. People who live in communities without access to quality local news are less likely to vote, run for office or even trust their neighbours.
Bushwick Daily is the first investment Indiegraf has made in an American publisher via its new program Indie Capital. “Bushwick Daily has a decade-long history of success. With extra resources from Indiegraf, we aim not only to sustainably grow Bushwick Daily, but replicate its model in other neighbourhoods experiencing local news poverty in New York,” said Millar.
Cooperative media startup in Baltimore aims to engage underserved communities in local news
The seeds of Bloc by Block News were sown in 2012, following the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin. Co-founder Kevon Paynter was shocked by the lack of Black voices in news conversations. “What was even more shocking was how few Black voices were on cable news. It was the first time I noticed,” Paynter said. “News happens without us, whether we’re talking about class and economic status, geography, diversability, sexual orientation, gender and generational differences — every day people do not equitably shape the narrative.”
He considered many different business forms for Bloc By Block News, and he settled on it being a media cooperative, owned by news readers and news publications. “The idea of sharing ownership and making people feel like they owned the news is much more attractive, motivating and impactful,” Paynter told Co-operatives UK.
In 2020, he decided to establish a cooperative media outlet for local people in Baltimore who struggle to navigate and discover local news. When Paynter mapped the local news ecosystem in Maryland, he found that while the state is home to many newsrooms, very few serve Black neighbourhoods and communities.
Bloc by Block now offers a one-stop-shop newsletter and has plans to launch a mobile app for trustworthy neighbourhood, city and state news and information. Ahead of launching the app, the newsletter is helping Marylanders find trustworthy information on local topics that matter to them most. “We’re making sure we have something that people actually want, growing our audience and momentum,” Paynter said.
“We believe independent media will be the largest source of local news content, overtaking centrally-owned newspaper chains, in the next decade,” said Millar. “By supporting a cooperative like Bloc By Block, we want to contribute to developing new ownership models that place control over local news in local hands.”
Founded by a solo-entrepreneur, Shasta Scout expands its tech and digital marketing team via Indiegraf
Shasta Scout serves the newspoor rural region of Shasta County in northern California. Shallow media coverage of complex issues that impact the region, such as the presence of politically active far-right militant groups and the involvement of a local megachurch in both municipal government and political lobbying, led Annelise Pierce, Scout’s founder, to launch a non-profit civic news organization.
“We believe a democratic community requires access to just and equitable news,” Pierce said. “We’re committed to diversity in the stories we cover and in the perspectives we use to tell those stories.”
Pierce’s market research found that there is a strong desire in Shasta County for media that digs deeper and operates independently of the strong social and political connections within the community. But being able to cover that news, she said, takes more than just good journalism.
“For hyperlocal news media groups, financial sustainability is imperative, but elusive,” Pierce said. “That’s because many of the same problems that hound media groups nationwide are also present for media startups, particularly challenges around accessing sufficient revenue sources.”
“Shasta Scout has already demonstrated the need for in-depth journalism in its community,” said Millar. “By providing technology, digital marketing support and a community of other journalist-entrepreneurs to offer tools and best practices, we hope Annelise Pierce can move forward with the confidence that there is a team behind her committed to her success.”
Indiegraf to grow to over 50 community news outlets by the end of 2021
Indiegraf helps journalist-entrepreneurs launch and grow digital news outlets, driving revenue from readers and partners to power homegrown journalism. Since Indiegraf launched in spring 2020, it has grown quickly and supported 34 community news publishers across North America. Indiegraf is on track to add 20 more community news outlets to its network by the end of 2021, and accelerate its growth in 2022.
In the coming months, Indie Capital will roll out other funding opportunities for community news publishers across North America that are committed to providing equitable coverage in communities experiencing news poverty. If you’d like to express your interest in future opportunities, sign up for email updates here.
If you are a funder interested in learning more about Indie Capital, contact Indiegraf here.
For media inquiries contact: H.G. Watson, [email protected]