Open Matter Phase I: Complete

Reflections on an experiment to support local news innovation

At CUNY: the first of four class photos.

To say this year started with a bang for Matter is an understatement. Just two days into the New Year, I learned that:

  1. We were moving ahead with our local news innovation bootcamps with the support of Google News Initiative.
  2. I was in charge!

It was a shot of adrenaline that launched us into rapid action. Over the next month, we finalized plans with Google, enrolled News Media Alliance as our industry partner, and secured the support of our incredible university partners at CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, UC Berkeley Advanced Media Institute, the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute at the Missouri School of Journalism, and the James M. Cox Jr. Institute for Journalism Innovation, Management & Leadership at the University of Georgia’s Henry W. Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication.

The Berkeley scramble for prototyping supplies.

We then dove into our curriculum, adapting, tweaking, and changing elements we’ve put into practice with our entrepreneurs and publishing partners over the years to make sure we were providing concentrated, standalone experience that participants could take home and put into action. Across two and a half days, news organizations would be mixed together, then build new startups from scratch, culminating with a pitch session, before rejoining their colleagues to begin applying the methodology to their everyday work and news innovation projects.

We built an application process, posted announcements detailing the opportunity, and had one last phone call with the principal partners. We dreamt up ways this program could impact for-profit newsroom across the country and decided to call it Open Matter. And then, we pressed go and waited.

Building in Georgia

Having run similar application processes for our startup accelerator, I can say that one of the great sources of joy in evaluating applicants is getting to be blown away by an out-of-the-blue team that you could have only hoped would throw their hats into the ring.

And, I can tell you, having wrapped up this first phase of Open Matter a few weeks ago, we got blown away again and again. Whether it was the crew in New York, Mizzou, Georgia, or California, the 23 teams (assembled from more than 44 newsrooms and comprising 133 incredible people) we hosted for Open Matter represent a vital cross-section of the local news fabric. Each team was unique but had shared challenges that brought them to Open Matter: Declining print circulation, aging readership, the challenges of distribution in a post-app world, how to motivate readers into becoming true members. They were inspired to put in the work, to get uncomfortable, try new things, and then be ready to put what they learned into immediate action, before they even left bootcamp.

Camaraderie in Missouri

At each of the bootcamps I helped lead I felt a tremendous sense of satisfaction, as the talent, energy, and enthusiasm of the people fighting for the future of local news manifested at four great journalism schools. But my satisfaction, nor Matter’s, isn’t terribly important. What counts is what the people we designed for thought about the experience, and what they’re doing with what they learned.

And the data is clear — across all four Open Matter bootcamps, participants were very satisfied indeed.

— Overall satisfaction: 4.33/5 average
 — This will have a positive impact on my work: 4.35/5
 — Likelihood to recommend to a peer: 4.45/5

Coming to Open Matter for a full three days, usually in another city or state, is a tremendous commitment for any local news organization in the current era. We really, really didn’t want to let them down, and the numbers suggest we largely succeeded.

As for what they will do, well, that’s still somewhat to be foretold. I’ve been checking in with teams and gathering stories, and I will be sharing some impact in this very publication before long. I can tease that a few teams have embraced the Open Matter material to a degree and depth I could not have guessed in advance. But that’s a story for another time.

As for Open Matter’s future, all I can say is that this wave was meant to start a lot more experiments in the future of news. It wasn’t meant to be the full set we ever work on. This is the end of chapter one. There’s much more to be written and done. Stay tuned… or give us a call if you want to collaborate on something similar!

Thank you, Matter.

It’s six o’clock on a Friday morning in June. No, I’m not blissfully catching up on rest ahead of a homework-filled weekend in Chapel Hill. Instead, I find myself coordinating coffee deliveries, finalizing space setup, and extinguishing every small fire in sight before entrepreneurs arrive. Months of mindful planning are reaching their zenith — Matter Eight Demo Day.

Me smiling to mask my Demo Day exhaustion

My name is Matt and for the past nine weeks I’ve been a Program Intern at Matter. That means I observed firsthand the grueling efforts Matter Eight entrepreneurs invested to prepare for demo day. Beginning with Design Review 3 the week I joined Matter, and continuing through speaker series, office hours, and feedback sessions, I witnessed the core of Matter’s approach: to be on the cutting edge of design thinking, entrepreneurship, and media.

Before officially starting at Matter, I had only an abstract conception of what it means to be a mission-driven for-profit organization. The notion didn’t quite jive with the world I encountered previously. I currently serve as the President of the Board of Directors for the Daily Tar Heel, one of the oldest and most respected college media organizations in the country. Perhaps because of my experience in a nonprofit organization, my mind associates the words ‘mission-driven’ with nonprofits or poorly performing companies, stumbling to reconcile its mission with its margins. I was a skeptic. Fortunately, nine weeks of learning, doing, observing, and failing convinced me that thriving mission-driven companies like Matter not only exist, they are essential to economic and societal health.

Corey Ford, Matter’s Managing Director, put it best when he said this:

“We believe you can do good and do well. In fact, in this climate, we believe that if you don’t start by doing good, you will not do well.”
Corey Ford introducing Matter Eight teams at Demo Day in San Francisco

My summer also taught me that Matter’s staff actively practices the design thinking principles they preach — and they really do work. We regularly engage in ideation, feedback, empathy, prototyping, failing forward, and everything in between. And although the process didn’t feel natural at first (like I said, I was skeptic), I now can’t imagine work and innovation happening any other way. I believe that human-centered design is the most efficient and reliable way to build products for human use. Otherwise, you’re just throwing dull imaginary darts at a dartboard of faceless imaginary users. You’re designing specifically for yourself. Or worse yet, you’re trying to design for everyone.

Back to that caffeine-fueled June morning. If you were in the room on demo day, you certainly experienced, as I did, what Matter is all about. Matter invests in early stage media startups that are working to build a more informed, empathetic, and inclusive society. Each founder that presented is dedicated to at least one of those goals.

On Demo Day, the first entrepreneur began her pitch directly after Corey’s introduction. Hebah Fisher is the founder and CEO of Kerning Cultures, a podcast dedicated to storytelling in the Middle East. For people living outside of the region, Kerning Cultures aims to upend stereotypes perpetuated by media portrayals of Middle Eastern and North African politics. For Middle Eastern listeners, Kerning Cultures tells stories that people can see themselves in. The stories that Hebah and her team tell inform audiences, construct empathy, and include voices that aren’t represented in traditional Middle Eastern media outlets.

Hebah Fisher presenting at Matter Eight Demo Day in San Francisco

The twelve Matter Eight teams have little in common beyond this: they are building a more informed, empathetic, and inclusive society. Every pitch after Hebah’s shared these themes.

Sadly, my time at Matter is quickly coming to a close this week. I’m incredibly grateful for the opportunity to intern at Matter, an environment that is lively, interesting, and ever changing. Matter has the perfect blend of expertise, entrepreneurial spirit, and whimsy. On my first day I was told to embrace any task, big or small. That’s exactly what happens here each day.

My departure from Matter is bittersweet. It’s bitter in the sense that I no longer get the chance to work alongside the amazing, passionate Matter community every day. But I do get to carry my experiences back to UNC and the Daily Tar Heel for my senior year. In a futile attempt to summarize all that I’ve learned during my time here, I’m left with this: Do good, do well, and always stick to your values.

Thank you, Matter.

8 Ways Matter Eight is Changing the Future of Media

Our eighth cohort is moving onward and upward. We anticipate great things.

Matter kicked off 2018 with a new cohort of intelligent, capable entrepreneurs with big visions for the media companies they had begun to build. The teams came through our garage doors in February at different stages of development, and over the past five months, they incorporated design thinking principles into their work, iterated their businesses time and time again, and embraced the principle of failing fast to fail forward. Yet that barely scratches the surface of what Matter Eight accomplished.

At the core of each of these startups is a firmly-held belief that this thing needs to exist. Though the cycle ends with Demo Day, the experiment is just beginning for these entrepreneurs.

Here are eight ways Matter Eight companies push the boundaries of what’s possible in tech and media.

1. Giving underrepresented creators new ways to be seen, heard, and discovered

DeShuna Spencer, Founder & CEO of kweliTV

Media plays a central role in determining how we perceive cultures that are different from our own. In order to create a more equitable society, cross-cultural representations must be accurate, empathetic, and accessible. Matter Eight startups kweliTV and Kerning Cultures tell broad stories that go beyond the usual narrative, replacing negative or inaccurate stereotypes of black and Middle Eastern cultures with authentic stories from creators who have previously been left out of the conversation, while Scriptd creates a new channel of discovery for such creators.

2. Changing your news consumption habits for the better

Compass News Co-Founders Mayank Banerjee and Matilde Gigli

Revitalizing journalism is at the core of our mission here at Matter. In 2015, the American Press Institute reported 88 percent of millennials consumed news on Facebook regularly — yet it wasn’t until 2016 that the polls exposed just how splintered our democracy had become. Facebook and other social media platforms create filter bubbles that conflict with one of journalism’s fundamental principles, objectivity, help spread fake news, and hasten the decline of civility on the web.

On the surface, Compass News and would appear to have conflicting missions: the former is using technology to summarize the news, while the latter is using technology to hold users to task for reading articles to completion.

Compass News, however, is simply meeting its millennial users where they are, delivering news in a format that works for them. The team uses machine learning technology to transform the much-loathed news app experience, valuing personalization but also providing a breadth of topics and opinions.

By developing a “FitBit for reading,” on the other hand, is promoting media literacy, and building a community that highlights commenters who demonstrate their breadth and depth of their reading habits. Through two very different routes, both companies are contributing to our mission of creating a more informed society.

3. Getting you the personalized information you need, when you need it

Courtney Snavely, Co-Founder of Ovee

Expediency and personalization are no longer “nice to haves.” Instead, they are increasingly expected by consumers.

With its AI editor, Compass News is able to personalize its newsfeed for individual users’ interests. Ovee is another product designed to be incorporated into the user’s regular routine. Ovee harnesses both the anonymity and the flexibility of mobile technology to connect young women with accessible and reliable information about their sexual health.

4. Reimagining the way we engage with brands, and they with us

Matter Eight companies Paytime and Tangible solve pervasive industry ailments: reaching and engaging customers. Paytime takes a simple principle (“Time is money”) and turns it into a new way of paying for subscriptions, where advertisers have the opportunity to engage directly with users and users are given control over the information they share with those advertisers. Tangible gives ecommerce companies a way to reach customers “IRL”, harnessing direct mail to provide a more valuable and memorable way to interact with users.

Paytime CEO Ignacio Linares

5. Restoring value to digital ads

Paytime attracts much-coveted millennial audiences with the promise of transparency and a fair return on investment. Advertisers are mining data regardless, but through Paytime the user is in control, and directly benefits from engaging with a brand of their choice.

Optimera maximizes ad revenue through its suite of solutions that optimize for viewability, a concept that plagues publishers and advertisers alike. Founder Keith Candiotti explains the conundrum the two parties currently face in this Medium post: “Consider for a moment that 70% of all ads on the internet were not seen but 100% were paid for by advertisers. Or another way to put it, in a 36 billion dollar a year industry, $25 billion was wasted.” The high viewability standards advertisers now demand as a result is hurting publishers. Optimera’s platform solves this tedious issue for time-strapped publishers with a few lines of Javascript code.

6. Cutting through the red tape to ensure decision makers listen to their users–and their employees

LedBetter CEO Iris Kuo

Although the past year has demonstrated technology’s potential to both threaten and facilitate democracy, we at Matter believe in utilizing technology to address problems of access and integrity. One Matter Eight company that embodies this ideal is LedBetter, which combats all-too-frequent occurrences of workplace discrimination, starting with its gender equality index. LedBetter helps companies collect and report on their leadership diversity, and gives them the tools they need to improve their company culture. It offers potential hires insight grounded in data and qualitative analysis and puts PR jargon to the test.

Targeting diversity in the entertainment industry, Scriptd also connects leaders with their audiences. From discovery to optioning, Scriptd serves as the connective tissue between production companies and talented writers tha might otherwise go unheard.

7. Harnessing emerging technologies to help you search for what you want — and need

nēdl CEO Ayinde Alakoye

In today’s content-saturated media climate, optimizing according to SEO best practices isn’t sufficient — particularly for smaller publishers competing against household names with national and global reach. More than half of web users find content through organic search, yet only five percent of users click beyond Google’s first page. nēdl puts the power of broadcast in everyone’s hands, democratizing a long-static industry. On the nēdl app, users can easily search and stream live radio, as well as create their own stations anytime, anywhere.

As the post-mobile world approaches, everyday utilities are being reimagined beyond the typical constraints of a screen. Drop, which designs information spaces in VR, is one of several companies working to humanize virtual reality. Browsing doesn’t have to be a phone-in-hand, eyes-glued-to-screen activity. Drop demonstrates that it is already becoming immersive.

8. Changing media for good

Everything we do at Matter comes back to this central mission. And it’s one that is more important now than ever before.

Matter Eight entrepreneurs are designing the future of media with a fierce commitment to sharing knowledge, valuing diverse perspectives, and leading with empathy. Despite Demo Day marking the end of their time at Matter, each team’s passion for their unique causes will drive their next steps of development.

We know we’ll be following along, and we hope you will, too.

Meet the teams of Open Matter Berkeley and Open Matter Georgia!

After a brief interlude for a little thing called Matter Demo Days, we’re back next week with the final two installments of the first Open Matter bootcamp program. They’re happening on opposite coasts on the same days. Up first (by three hours, thanks to the Eastern Time Zone) is the James M. Cox Jr. Institute for Journalism Innovation, Management & Leadership at the University of Georgia’s Henry W. Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, which will be ably led by my colleagues Roxann Stafford, Josh Lucido, and Lindsay Abrams. On the West Coast, Ben Werdmuller, Shereen Adel, and I will lead an Open Matter at UC Berkeley Advanced Media Institute.

We’re excited, and it’s a heck of a way to get summer off to a roaring start. But we’re even more excited about who will be joining us for the experience!

Here are the 10 teams who will participate in the first-ever Double Open Matter!

Gatehouse Media (Florida), publisher of local newspapers
As I mentioned in my post about our Mizzou Boot Camp, I started my career at the Holland Sentinel, which is now owned by Gatehouse. Their publications reach an incredibly large number of people as the local paper of their community. The team for Georgia comes from Gatehouse’s corporate side, as well as leaders from their papers in Daytona Beach, Lakeland, Sarasota, Palm Beach, and Jacksonville, Florida.

CNHI, publisher of more than 100 local newspapers
We’ve had the pleasure of knowing and working with CNHI as a partner of Matter’s for several years now, and we’re thrilled to be able to deepen our impact with them. They own more than 100 newspapers in 22 states and are based in Montgomery, Alabama. Thanks to Open Matter, more of their team will be able to train and apply their learning throughout the chain. Their team of five come to us from CNHI itself, as well as publications in Texas, Massachusetts, and Indiana.

American City Business Journals, covering business where it happens
It’s all-too easy to break the news ecosystem into what’s local by geography, and then what’s vertical and therefore national and global. But business is local, too. Inherently local, even for global businesses. And American City Business Journals is a major lens for how people understand the business environment around them. They publish 43 business publications covering 43 distinct metropolitan areas. We’re thrilled to welcome them to Georgia.

Cox Media Group, Atlanta’s news source
Atlanta is the Empire City of the South — the center of industry, news, and entertainment alike. It’s only appropriate, then, that we welcome Cox Media Group for our Georgia bootcamp. Cox owns six newspapers and dozens of TV and radio stations, including the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, WSB in Atlanta, and WGAU in Athens. They are the largest news source in the largest market in the region. We’re proud to include their Atlanta-based team in our group.

Berkeleyside, an innovative news publisher and events company
Many see a potential new revenue stream for local news organizations of all kinds in hosting events in the community. Few have realized it so successfully as Berkeleyside with Uncharted, the Berkeley Festival of Ideas, hosted each fall and bringing together world-class thinkers and doers. We’re excited to welcome their team to our Berkeley Open Matter.

Mission Local, award-winning hyperlocal publication
Originally started at the Berkeley School of Journalism, Mission Local is the definitive news source for San Francisco’s Mission District, covering its many changes and breaking news since 2008. Like Berkeleyside and past participant Spirited Media, they’re part of a movement of built-from-scratch new local publications that are starting from the bottom-up and validating their model and experiments as they scale.

Gatehouse Media Ohio
Like their Florida colleagues, the teams from the Ohio wing of Gatehouse represent many corners of a major state. They represent Columbus, Canton, and regional coverage of all Ohio. As a Great Lakes region transplant myself, I’m excited to see them out here by the Bay.

Mt. Angel Publishing, community news in the Oregon countryside
Open Matter has been home to every scale of local news organization, from hyperlocal digital-only publications to major metros. Having been an editor of a community weekly, however, I’m glad to see the category represented in Mt. Angel, which publishes a wide variety of publications based in Silverton and Stayton, Oregon. Serving those two towns, each with fewer than 10,000 residents, and their surrounding areas is an important and essential part of the news ecosystem.

Reno Gazette-Journal, chronicler of the biggest little city in the world
Reno, Nevada is a fascinating and fast-changing city. Its population has grown by more than 30% since 2000 and now sits near 250,000. And the Gazette-Journal has covered its growth, economy, and population throughout. I’m thrilled they’ll be traveling over the Sierras to see us down here by the water., digital-first publishing for curious locals
Arriving in a new place is a challenge. What does it take to become a real local? That’s the problem set out to solve as it set itself up, first in Miami, with support from the Knight Foundation, and now Seattle, Portland, and Orlando. I had the pleasure of meeting their CEO Christopher Sopher a few years ago, and I’m excited to welcome the team as they plan their future growth.

What an incredible group! The entire first wave of Open Matter has been a remarkable journey with great participants, hosts, and, of course, partners. It’s been the honor of my life to lead this effort for Matter, and I can’t wait to welcome all these teams to Berkeley and Georgia next week to wrap up this cycle.

The Drunken Walk, S3-E7: Jill Koziol – Co-Founder, Motherly

Jill Koziol, Co-Founder and CEO of Motherly (and Matter Five alum!), joined us in San Francisco for a conversation with Matter Eight entrepreneurs. Pete Mortensen, Director of Program in San Francisco, talked with Jill about the incredible growth that Motherly has seen over the last few years.

Initially, Jill says, their growth was slow, but steady. By staying the course with conviction and always going back to their user—a digitally native, Millennial mom who is learning to parent in very different circumstances than previous generations—they built something that resonated. And over time, because they deeply understand her needs, they saw a huge spike in users without pouring tons of money into advertising.

The Drunken Walk, S3-E6: Deepa Subramanian- Co-founder, Wherewithall

The Drunken Walk is a series of live fireside chats, blog posts, and podcasts from Matter Ventures, the world’s only independent startup accelerator for media entrepreneurs.

Our eighth accelerator class is underway in San Francisco and New York City. Learn more about our amazing teams.

Join the conversation about the future of media by following us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and of course here on Medium!

Sign up for our newsletter to get regular updates on our program and portfolio.

Enough is enough. It’s time to support startups that respect our rights.

Surveillance is not a requirement. We’re looking for scrappy entrepreneurs trying to build something better.

It’s hard to avoid the headlines. The personal information of tens of millions of people was scraped by a political consultant campaign, using the API of the world’s largest social network. There was no data breach; there were no hackers. The information taken from the API as designed, which was there in the first place to support a targeted advertising business model with a goal of growth at all costs.

This event wasn’t alone. It would be naïve to assume that there had only been one solitary personality test that used this data. Aggressive data gathering has become commonplace. Even in the aftermath of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, Facebook again drew fire for storing facial recognition data without consent. And Facebook is far from the only tech company guilty of such activities.

It would be easy to blame the tech industry for these abuses of trust — and we should. But at Matter, we know that there are entrepreneurs and startups who are actively trying to create a more informed, inclusive, and empathetic society. There are ventures engaged in the business of supporting democracy. They’re out there, fighting against the tide to build something better. They know that technology, used well, can empower communities, not undermine and divide them. They know it’s not just about good intentions: it’s about deeply understanding the implications of your work. And we know this because they apply to join our program every single day.

A community changing media for good

Our five-month, immersive accelerator in San Francisco and New York City helps entrepreneurs de-risk their businesses through a culture of rapid, prototype-driven experimentation. We help you understand your users and your venture holistically, test your core assumptions, and land on something that resonates, is feasible, and is a viable business.

That’s important for every venture — but it’s particularly important when you’re mission-driven. You can have all the goodwill in the world, but if you’re building something that aims to do good, you have a responsibility to make it viable. If you want to make an impact tomorrow, you should want to be continuing to make waves two years from now. We want to help you do well while doing good.

We believe the seeds of the next great media institutions will be planted by courageous entrepreneurs who make the leap to build ventures that speak truth to power, close the empathy gap, and take a radically inclusive approach to amplifying the voices of all people.

This moment is too important to let slide. We’ve always made it clear that we’re looking for the next generation of ventures that will remake the technology industry into one that supports inclusion, empathy, and safety. And now it’s more important than ever.

A human-centered program that aligns you with your users

Recently, Anil Dash wrote in 12 Things Everyone Should Understand About Tech:

We can be thoughtfully skeptical and critical of modern tech products and companies without having to believe that most people who create tech are “bad”. Having met tens of thousands of people around the world who create hardware and software, I can attest that the cliché that they want to change the world for the better is a sincere one. Tech creators are very earnest about wanting to have a positive impact.

Wanting to make a positive impact is one thing. Ensuring that you do is another.

Matter’s program gives you the tools to holistically understand your user — and your venture. Our version of design thinking aligns you on a fundamental level with the people you’re trying to help. Rather than harvesting their data, or engaging in an ad blocking arms race with them, we can help you find business models that meet their deep, unmet needs, while allowing you to grow and reach profitability.

The Matter Nine program

Matter is all about testing and experimentation. The pillars of our program are Design Reviews: closed, safe spaces where you can get feedback on the vital characteristics of your venture. You will tell the story of your startup in the form of a narrative, and receive gloves-off, honest feedback from a panel of experts and invited attendees.

Nothing leaves the room; everybody understands that your venture is a work in progress; you decide which feedback you want to act on (after all, it’s your venture). But at the end of the session you have far more data than you had before.

Then, together with a community that will keep you accountable, you set goals that will guide you to the next Design Review.

In between, you meet one-on-one with members of our network of hundreds of mentors, hear the stories of invited speakers who have been down this entrepreneurial path before, participate in workshops around vital topics like revenue models and user journeys, and test and share with your fellow entrepreneurs as part of a weekly event we call a Shareout.

This is all in service of helping you to perform rapid tests, get feedback quickly, and use what you learn to propel you forwards at an accelerated pace by aligning you with your users. We’ve proven that the model de-risks startups and helps them find success. And in today’s climate, we think it’s more important than ever that the ventures that shape the future will support democracy and help to build a more informed, inclusive, and empathetic society.

Apply today. Applications are still open. You need a team, a working prototype, and a deck. We’re excited to meet you.

The Drunken Walk, S3-E5: Jennifer Brandel— CEO, Hearken

For this week’s speaker series, we were lucky to welcome a longtime member of our community back to Matter. Jennifer Brandel, CEO of Hearken and Matter Four entrepreneur, joined us in New York City where she and Roxann Stafford, our Director of Program there, sat down to talk about her “Drunken Walk” as an entrepreneur who really sought to change the way journalists tell stories.

Hearken has turned journalism on its head by actually bringing audiences into the reporting process. It provides journalists the tools they need to ask people what they want to know before going out into the field. Hearken really opens up newsrooms to find out the real questions in their communities and create more inclusive content.

Meet the teams of Open Matter Mizzou!

Six incredible organizations will convene to innovate in the birthplace of modern journalism education.

Open Matter rolls on! Our series of four design thinking and business model innovation bootcamps kicks off in earnest at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism on Monday, and we’re buzzing in anticipation to connect with and coach the incredible publications that are participating.

Next up will be the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute at the Missouri School of Journalism, the birthplace of modern journalism education. It’s a fitting venue and an incredible partner, located in the near-geographic center of the lower 48 states and the almost-exact center of Missouri. From May 7 to 9, six more incredible organizations will gather to collaborate, experiment, immerse in new process and methods, and emerge with fresh perspectives and skills to take back home and apply to some of the most challenging problems in local news.

Without further ado, here are the seven teams who will join us at Mizzou:

St. Louis Post-Dispatch, based in St. Louis, Missouri
Formed in 1878 when Joseph Pulitzer merged two St. Louis papers, the Post-Dispatch has been a stalwart of superior local journalism for generations (there’s a reason Pulitzer’s name adorns the most prestigious journalism awards). In recent years, its digital version,, has been host to some impressive forays into data journalism and enterprise service journalism. The Post-Dispatch’s team for Open Matter represents reporting, design, development, digital strategy, and business.

The Dallas Morning News
For some time, Texas has been the fastest-growing state in the US, both in absolute and relative terms. It’s a vast and complicated place. And the Dallas Morning News has been critical to understanding one of its biggest cities for 133 years. I’m really excited to welcome the Morning News to Open Matter. We’ve engaged the paper’s parent company, AH Belo, as a media partner of Matter’s since early 2015 and have had the chance to work with several leaders there over the last three years. That makes us all the more excited to directly collaborate with leaders from the paper itself in editorial, digital, analytics, and retention at Open Matter.

Gatehouse Media, publisher of 130 daily newspapers
My first job as a reporter was at the Holland Sentinel, a daily in the southwest of my home state Michigan. Gatehouse owns the Sentinel now, along with 129 other daily newspapers, including their most recent additions, the Austin American-Statesman in Texas and the Akron Beacon Journal in Ohio. Gatehouse also owns 640 other community publications and 540 local market websites. Their publishing network is extensive, deep, and spans the entire country. We’re delighted to welcome their Austin-based Open Matter team.

Schurz Communications, based in South Bend, Indiana
Schurz publishes vital newspapers in Indiana, Maryland, South Dakota, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. Their Open Matter team carries representatives from all those states save only Maryland. While continuing to support the communities they cover, Schurz also has an active innovation department pursuing new revenue-generating activity both digital and analog (a basketball box for Indiana Hoosier fans!). They’ll be represented by editorial, digital, marketing, reporting, and innovation leaders at Open Matter.

TownNews, a Lee Enterprises company
Look under the hood at more than 1,600 local newspaper websites, and you’ll find Blox CMS from TownNews. It’s quite possible that no other single piece of software powers as much of the local news ecosystem. That means that as and when TownNews finds new revenue opportunities it can enable through its platform, they can cascade positively through the entire industry. The Moline, Illinois-based team for Open Matter covers revenue, product, tech, and business development, and we’re thrilled to have them.

The Virginian-Pilot, based in Norfolk, Virginia
The Virginian-Pilot has long been a critical piece of the news landscape in the south, recognized both for a tradition of excellence in design and reporting and of speaking truth to power (a Pulitzer-winning anti-lynching editorial in 1929 and another in 1960 in favor of desegregation and the end of Jim Crow). They continue to serve the large and diverse Hampton Roads metro area, where Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina collide. We’re honored to welcome their team of four from editorial and digital to Open Matter.

Here’s to supporting the invigoration of some incredible institutions and the development of the next great set of local news businesses.

Open Matter is a series of tuition-free bootcamps offered through an open application process to for-profit local news organizations of all kinds. To learn more and apply, read the announcement of the opportunity. If you have questions, please reach out to!

The Drunken Walk, S3-E4: Caitlin Kalinowski — Oculus VR (rebroadcast)

The Drunken Walk is a series of live fireside chats, blog posts, and podcasts from Matter Ventures, the world’s only independent startup accelerator for media entrepreneurs.

Applications are open for Matter Nine! Find out more here.

Meanwhile, our eight accelerator class is currently underway in San Francisco and New York City. Learn more about our amazing teams.

Join the conversation about the future of media by following us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and of course here on Medium!

Sign up for our newsletter to get regular updates on our program and portfolio.