By Wade Roush
Once upon a time, public radio and TV stations were the new kids on the media block, disrupting the commercial media world by offering educational, cultural, and community-based content of a type that just wasn’t available from the privately owned networks. But that was 60 years ago: the nation’s flagship public stations, WGBH and KQED, went on the air in 1951 and 1954, respectively.
So, when it comes to keeping the public informed and connected, it’s a reasonable guess that the next big disruptions won’t come from inside today’s mature public-media bureaucracies, but from outsiders. Still, those same bureaucracies hope to have a hand in the way media culture evolves.
That’s the basic story behind Matter Ventures, a San Francisco-based investment fund and startup accelerator that uncloaked today. With $2.5 million in backing from KQED and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Matter plans to use the now familiar vertical or “impact” accelerator model (think Rock Health, Greenstart, Imagine K12, or Code for America) to help roughly 10 media startups per year get off the ground. The hope, says Matter CEO Corey Ford, is to find participatory platforms “that will have the impact that Twitter has had.”
Startups that win a berth at Matter will receive a $50,000 investment. Applications for the first class opened today.
Ford (pictured above) says he hopes to attract entrepreneurs who believe in the spirit and mission of traditional public media, but who are experimenting with different technologies, business models, and audiences. “This is not about reinventing public media,” Ford tells Xconomy. “It’s about people who are building early-stage ventures that have the potential to make society more informed, empowered, and connected.”
The idea of an accelerator for participatory media companies has been in the works for some time. Matter Ventures is actually the rebranded version of the Public Media Accelerator, an organization first announced in late 2011 by the Cambridge, MA-based Public Radio Exchange (PRX).
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.