Taproot Edmonton: An update to kickoff 2017

Happy New Year! Time for an update on where we’re at with Taproot Edmonton and our quest to build a sustainable future for local journalism in Edmonton and beyond.

Taproot Edmonton at Launch Party 7
Photo by Ampersand Grey

We’re closing in on eight months since we announced Taproot. We started with just an idea. We shared it and received valuable feedback. We refined the idea and made predictions about how to make it real. We started prototyping and learned what worked and what needed work. Then we launched and began iterating. Now we’re looking to grow. And on that note, we’re thrilled to start the year as an official entity: Taproot Publishing Inc.!

Getting to this point has been both challenging and rewarding! We’re grateful to everyone who has supported us along the way.

Growing our membership

Taproot members are our primary source of funding and curiosity, both of which are critical for great local stories to get published. We are approaching 100 members – big thanks to all of you! We’re committed to delivering an increasing amount of value to you in the year ahead, and we’re thrilled to have you along for the ride.

If you’d like to support us and share your own curiosity, becoming a member is quick and costs just $100/year or $10/month.

Publishing new stories

Thanks to the curiosity of our members and the hard work of our storytellers (who are also members), we have now published four stories and are preparing to publish our next before the end of the month.

Our November story was a rumination on what Edmontonians can do to make streets safer for those on foot. How to stop discounting pedestrian deaths was a collaborative effort between Karen, Jeff, Stephanie, and myself. We learned a lot through the production of that story and were happy with the response it received.

Our December story was a follow-up piece, taking into account some of the feedback and discussion that happened in the comments and on social media. Stephanie wrote about how a family longs for Vision Zero to live up to its promise. We were really happy to be able to share that important perspective.

We’ve got a bunch of stories in the hopper and we’re applying the lessons learned through publishing our first four to ensure we can ramp up our publication frequency. There’s certainly no shortage of great questions from our members that we’d like to explore!

Sharing our own story

Just after I posted my last update in October we participated in Startup Edmonton’s Launch Party 7. That was a great opportunity for us to refine our message and to tell our story to a whole new group of people. We spent the entire evening talking to curious people about Taproot and what we’re up to. It was great to hear encouragement, feedback, and constructive criticism.

Taproot Edmonton at Launch Party 7
Photo by Ampersand Grey

In November I travelled to Chicago for a holiday and while there attended the People-Powered Publishing Conference. The event took place just two days after the U.S. Presidential Election, which made for some interesting discussions about journalism. It was a great opportunity to share some of the journalistic innovation that is happening up here in Canada.

We have received quite a bit of media attention so far, which we’re happy about! To highlight just two, we were featured on journalism.co.uk which gave us great exposure abroad, and Karen spent some time talking about Taproot on Edmonton AM. We have started collecting all of the links on our website at Taproot in the News.

Ongoing curiosity

We have been thinking a lot about how we can better serve our members and play a bigger role in the future of local journalism. Our current approach works well for exploring some of the questions our members have asked, but as we found through working on the pedestrian deaths story, some questions are perhaps best explored over time. This requires a different, additional approach.

Here’s what Karen said in an interview with Story Board:

“How do you make it possible for somebody to follow an issue so closely that they can see stories that other people wouldn’t, that they have sources that other people don’t, that they can go deeper than someone just parachuting into an issue can?” she says. “I think that is probably, journalistically, one of the biggest things that we’ve got to figure out a way to fund.”

We think there’s a real opportunity to tackle this challenge together with our members and we’ve started sharing some ideas with them. Stay tuned!

Sustainable local journalism

Exactly a year ago I was writing about the merger of the Journal & Sun newsrooms, a change that resulted in more than 30 people losing their jobs. We’ve seen more people either leave or be let go since then and I don’t think the end is in sight yet, to say nothing of the downsizing that has taken place at other local media organizations.

The business model that used to support local journalism is broken. The newspaper you used to know isn’t coming back. We are working to replace what is being lost with something that is sustainable and responsive to the community we serve.

How you can help

Want to help us grow Taproot Edmonton? Become a member. You’ll get access to the Story Garden where you can share your curiosity with us, you’ll get our weekly members-only newsletter, and you’ll be first in line to receive new benefits and take advantage of new products as we build them out. Your support will help us ensure that quality local journalism has a future in Edmonton.

If you’re not quite ready to become a member, then we’d love the opportunity to earn your support. Join our free mailing list to keep up-to-date on new stories and products. Invite us to speak at your meeting or event – we’d be happy to talk about media, journalism, and our vision. Or join us for coffee if that’s more your style. If you’d prefer to stay online, follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Medium. Of course, you can always send us an email too.

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