Google-Funded Online News Outlet Coming to Longmont


April 21, 2020

Local newsrooms have been hit hard by the crisis over the past month, but several are planning expansions that can provide a much-needed shot of optimism for the industry.

Driving the news: McClatchy plans to launch a new digital local news outlet called The Longmont Leader this spring, serving the residents of Longmont, Colorado, executives tell Axios.

McClatchy will be taking over all of the existing assets of the Longmont Observer, a free, nonprofit, hyperlocal news website in the community currently run by local volunteers.
The new outlet will be designed similarly to how McClatchy launched its first local newsroom in Youngstown, Ohio, six months ago with Google’s funding.

McClatchy will hire 5 people to start. That includes one person for sales and revenue operations, along with two reporters, an editor and an assistant editor.
“We’re in middle of global pandemic, and local news is more a important need than ever,” says Mandy Jenkins, general manager of The Compass Experiment. “We’re just going to jump in and try to make a quick impact on the community.”

Yes, but: McClatchy has had its own financial struggles throughout the pandemic and leading up to it.

The company is able to move forward with this project because Google is fully funding it. Google’s Richard Gingras told Axios last year that Google is investing “many millions of dollars” on the partnership overall. 6AM City, a local news company centered around newsletters, is planning a significant growth effort this year in markets across the southeast, its COO Ryan Heafy tells Axios.

The company is in final stages of talks to acquire several other local media brands, and is planning to launch a major outlet in Atlanta this year in partnership with a larger media company.
The company has 27 employees in 7 cities across 4 southeastern states.

Heafy says that it is on track to meet its goals during coronavirus crisis due to higher demand. 6AM City has 250+ active advertisers, and expects to book roughly $3.5 million in revenue this year.
Other efforts to bolster local journalism are still underway. Report for America, an initiative of The GroundTruthProject that places emerging journalists into local newsrooms, will announce on Thursday a large new class of corps members that it will place into local newsrooms this upcoming year.

Be smart: There’s some historical precedent for newsrooms launching during financial crises, with the most famous example being Henry Luce launching Fortune Magazine, one of the first serious business magazines, in 1930 during the early months of the Great Depression.

The upside of doing so is that the demand for news tends to increase in times of crisis, but the downside is that it’s tough to sustain a business model for journalism when the economy is bad — ad money dries up and consumers get pickier about their wallets.