California Watch is making a little news today. We’re announcing new partnerships to distribute our investigative journalism.
With many of the state’s best and biggest newspapers aboard, we have launched the California Watch Media Network. It represents a step forward in the development of our business model and in our collaborative approach to watchdog reporting.
Last year we produced more than 40 investigative and enterprise stories – journalism that made a significant impact. We produced stories that changed laws, prompted policy reform and even led to a criminal arrest.
Our staff, the largest investigative reporting team in California, also generated more than 1,200 news posts, a mix of breaking news, enterprise and analysis. We sold our stories and news posts last year individually as “one-offs” to 80 different news outlets, charging low introductory rates. This year, we’re offering our content as a package deal to a limited number of media outlets. Most members of the network will have access to a set number of stories – as well as access to our daily news posts. You can read the full press release about our new network here.
Our first California Watch Media Network members are the San Francisco Chronicle, Sacramento Bee, Orange County Register, San Diego Union Tribune, Fresno Bee and Bakersfield Californian. We expect to add more news outlets in the coming weeks.
The network works two ways: It provides California Watch with revenue to help sustain our operations. Most nonprofit news outlets give content away. We chose not to do that. Generating revenue from our stories is an important part of our business model.
Separate from the network, we will continue to grow our collaborative relationships with other nonprofit new organizations. California Watch has forged key partnerships with KQED Public Radio and has worked closely with New America Media.
And we still plan to aggressively offer our stories and news posts to news organizations that are not part of our new network. It will cost a bit more this year for these news outlets to buy our content. We’ve raised prices across the board because we feel we’ve demonstrated there is value in what we do. Investigative journalism is expensive. Most of our long-term projects costs tens of thousands of dollars. The fees we charge represent a small portion of the project costs. But every bit helps. Our 2011 price list varies depending on the size of a news organization's audience.
So the network makes sense for us financially. But we think it offers the potential for more collaboration with news partners. And that may be the most exciting part. In our first year of operation, California Watch rarely teamed up with other news outlets early to jointly report stories. Mostly we found stories and delivered them. We still plan to do that. But we want to find more opportunities to work from the ground up with reporters and editors in Sacramento, San Francisco, Fresno or Southern California. We’ve already begun discussions with network partners to explore more ways to work together. And we had a conference call last week about one such story that we hope to pursue with at least two network members.
Collaboration is harder than it sounds. It takes a tremendous amount of coordination, communication and patience. We’d feel really good about doing joint projects once or twice a year to start – projects that otherwise might be out of reach for any one of us to tackle alone.
News organizations that are interested in joining the California Watch Media Network should get in touch with Meghann Farnsworth, our distribution and online community manager.