We’ve written before about the need for newspapers to be “digital first”and to think like startups as they try to adapt to the evolution of the media industry. Can a traditional newspaper take an even bigger step and actually help give birth to new technologies or services by acting like a startup incubator? At least two of them are planning to give it a try: thePhiladelphia News Network just launched an incubator, and Digital First Media recently launched a venture-capital arm and says it plans to invest in tech startups. While both of these efforts could easily fail, at least these two media entities aren’t just sitting back and relying on paywalls to save them.
The Philadelphia incubator is known as Project Liberty, and is being operated by Ben Franklin Technology Partners, a non-profit agency aimed at fostering new business in Pennsylvania — who also chose the three existing entrants to the program — but will be based in the same complex that is home to the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Philadelphia Daily News, as well as the online site Philly.com. The project is being funded by a $250,000 grant from the Knight Foundation, which has backed a number of media-related startups over the years, and gives the three startups six months worth of office space and other support while they work on partnerships with the papers.
Read/Write Web has an overview of the three startups that have been accepted to the program: CloudMine provides an API service that makes it easier for developers to come up with new applications, and another named SnipSnap lets customers scan printed coupons and then use them online — a natural fit for a newspaper that carries plenty of advertising inserts. The third is ElectNext, which is developing a web app to help readers decide who to vote for, a goal that has an obvious fit with the editorial side of the newspapers.
The CEO of the Philadelphia News Network, meanwhile — former Newsweek publisher Greg Osberg — has said he has much bigger goals for the project, and that he wants to “find the next Foursquare and house it at Philly.com.”
Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. We believe that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit www.knightfoundation.org.