Last week we distributed our first big package at California Watch to more than two dozen news organizations across the state. The project on homeland security spending by reporter G.W. Schulz found scores of cases of misspending, waste, questionable purchases and a glaring lack of oversight.
The story reached more than 1.88 million print subscribers, plus millions more online and on TV. We delivered the content to our partner news organizations for only a nominal fee. And we customized content for several newspapers.
The mission of California Watch is to distribute high-impact investigative and enterprise journalism. But we won’t last long if we give it away. Over the coming months we plan to explore all types of distribution models. The goal will be to develop an equitable payment structure that works for us and for our partners. No one knows exactly what that will look like.
We may ultimately ask newsrooms to pay subscription rates for our stories – based on their size, the frequency with which they publish our material, or both. I would imagine that we would charge a bit more to provide custom content to specific newsrooms. We were very happy to provide custom edits of the homeland security package because we were adding more relevant content to readers in select markets. We will probably consider a different rate structure for smaller organizations, ethnic media outlets and news organizations that participate in the content gathering process.
For instance, last week we provided our entire package at no charge to the Marin Independent Journal and to La Opinión because they helped put the package together. The Marin Independent Journal provided a great photograph and La Opinión translated the story into Spanish. And we would probably give our content for free to other nonprofit journalism organizations.
In the meantime, we’re building a new California Watch web site that we hope to launch on Nov. 1. We’re also going to be exploring other ways to generate revenue in the future. And we welcome ideas.
It remains to be seen how this all comes together down the road. Maybe a year from now, news organizations will buy one story from us a year. They could want everything we produce. Or maybe they won’t want to pay at all. It’s way too early to tell the type of demand we’ll experience. But if the first story is any guide, we believe the future is promising.