Knight Blog

The blog of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

More recipes for success of nonprofit news ventures

March 14, 2012, 2:43 p.m., Posted by Eric Newton



The latest cookbook for nonprofit news ventures comes today from the Investigative News Networksupported by Knight, is an eclectic mix of big, small, old, new, national, local, digital, print, neutral and progressive nonprofit news organizations. As you might expect, its recipes for success are as varied as sushi and Boston baked beans.

The white paper, Audience Development and Distribution Strategies, was written by digital news expert Elizabeth Osder. It is similar to our earlier reports on nonprofit news success, but also offers new advice, excellent context and fresh views from the nonprofit news leaders themselves.

Its thrust:  the story is not the only thing that matters in news. Explains Margie Freigvogel, editor of the St. Louis Beacon: “We started with a passion for journalism coming out of a newspaper background and we found ourselves running a business and technology enterprise.” The Beacon started in 2008 to create “a better St. Louis powered by journalism” and is still going strong.

These folks are, in my mind, heroes. Many started their new digital news ventures just in the past five years, as print newspapers have been shrinking and a lack of creative change in public broadcasting has so far failed to fill the gap. These new news leaders really care about informed and engaged communities.  Suddenly, through their own web sites and their traditional media partners, they are reaching many millions of people. Someone should add up that number: It’s big.

Funf wins SXSW Accelerator Competition in News Related Technologies track

March 14, 2012, 12:21 p.m., Posted by Elizabeth R. Miller


A visualization of Funf. Design: Cody Sumter

Last night, Funf, an open sensing framework, won the 2012 SXSW Accelerator Competition for the News Related Technology track.

Funf, which launched in October, explores how mobile phones can be used as sensor platforms to track the location, movement, app activity and extended networks of its users and communities.

With Funf, users can contribute anonymously to creating data sets for themselves and their communities. For example, during a disaster, Funf would use the data from the sensing networks in people's cellphones to create real-time maps of which roads are clear or blocked, where there is a cell phone outage and where people are trapped. Funf also collects data about the surrounding environment,  including levels of light, pressure and temperature.

Researchers may be able to predict small changes in individuals’ behavior - like changes in sleeping and waking patterns and communications - that could have important implications for predicting diseases.

Collected data can be measured by the Funf framework and configured in a variety of ways, including in data visualizations, notifications and other applications.

Knight Foundation, a sponsor of the Accelerator Competition, sat down to interview key members of the Funf team - Nadav Aharony, Alan Gardner and Cody Sumter - to learn what winning the competition meant for them and what’s next for the project.

At SXSW, Rishi Jaitly shares insights as to what makes community philanthropy work

March 13, 2012, 3:01 p.m., Posted by Elizabeth R. Miller

Video: The Urban Innovation Exchange is chronicling small-scale community projects making a difference in Detroit.

“One big question we constantly ask as we think about community grantmaking is how do we go from pockets of impact to real strategic change?” Rishi Jaitly, program director/Detroit at Knight Foundation, asked this morning at a SXSW panel.

He posed the question during a discussion focused on the new face of philanthropy and community grantmaking, and how it can best engage new people to contribute to local projects.

Citing Knight Foundation-supported initiatives like Kiva Detroit, the BME ChallengeUrban Innovation Exchange and Hatch Detroit, Jaitly shared that in his experience, the best community philanthropy projects have the potential to create strategic change if they focus on and are successful in the following three key areas: