The People’s Agenda project enters its next phase

We’ve been doing a lot of work on the People’s Agenda project, but we haven’t been doing much of it out loud lately, so it’s time for an update.

We’re grateful to the hundreds of people who answered our question about the issues that matter to them and participated in the eight listening sessions we organized around those responses. They conveyed so much passion, intelligence, and curiosity to us, all of which is fuelling the next phase of this project.

As we noted in our previous progress report, the next steps are to generate a voter’s guide indicating where the candidates stand on the issues people told us they cared about, and to publish stories further examining some of the issues we heard about.

Processing all of the information we’ve received from Edmontonians through the People’s Agenda project has involved a lot of spreadsheets and sticky notes. This is from a recent feature story brainstorming session.

Foundation laid for voter’s guide

We have developed a questionnaire that we will be asking candidates to fill out indicating where they stand on various issues, derived from what we heard from participants in the People’s Agenda and bolstered by the close attention we pay to city council. The questionnaire consists of 30 multiple-choice questions organized in groups of three under 10 headings: economy; environment; finances; housing and homelessness; planning; police; politics and governance; quality of life; roads; and transit.

The questionnaire doesn’t cover every issue that was raised in our gathering phase, but we’ve done our best to create a representative sample with a range of answers that will allow candidates to demonstrate their values and the approaches they would take to matters that the next city council will face. We will also invite them to share a pitch to voters, which we will publish along with their answers to the survey.

Our desire is to create an interactive guide similar to what a site called The City created for New York’s recent mayoral election. The City compiled candidates’ answers, and then made the same questionnaire available to New Yorkers so they could learn which candidates were most aligned with them. We are working to generate a similar experience so Edmontonians can find out which candidates for their ward and the mayoralty are the best fit for them.

The questionnaire will be sent to candidates soon. If you are running, please fill it out — we will be sharing the results far and wide, and this will help you find your voters. If you are working for a campaign, please make sure your candidate fills it out. And if you are a voter, kindly nudge them to fill it out.

Stories are in the works

We’ve published the first feature story inspired by People’s Agenda participants: This social-services experiment is working — could there be more?. The idea to take a closer look at the C5 North East Hub came out of a discussion during our listening session on housing and homelessness. As reporter Jackson Spring discovered, the hub seems to be working for people in a part of the city that needs support and doesn’t have easy access to it, but its future depends on whether the next city council decides to fund it.

We’ve got some other features in the works on such issues as 15-minute districts, public toilets, and carbon accounting. The answers to our questionnaire will also yield stories about each ward and act as a jumping-off point for deeper examinations of the questions at play.

More election-related matters

We’ve started a regular feature in The Pulse called the municipal election rundown, gathering up what the candidates are up to. Right now, that runs on Thursdays. Subscribe to The Pulse to get it for free every weekday.

You’ll also hear an increasing amount of campaign coverage on Speaking Municipally, our award-winning weekly look at municipal issues in Edmonton, hosted by Troy Pavlek and Mack Male. That comes out every Friday at noon.

Here’s something city council can do right now to support local journalism

Edmonton’s city council passed a motion on June 7 that we didn’t cover over at Taproot Edmonton, but we certainly took note of as a local media company.

The motion, made by Coun. Ben Henderson and seconded by Coun. Scott McKeen, carried 13-0. Here’s what it says:

The City of Edmonton council recognizes that a healthy, professional news media is essential to the proper functioning of democracy in our city; urges nearby municipal councils and across Canada to recognize that a robust news media is essential to the proper functioning of democracy in their jurisdictions; endorses legislation and regulations to support and rejuvenate news outlets across Canada; and urges the federal government to move quickly to pass legislation to ensure an ecosystem for a healthy news media to serve all Canadians.

Edmonton City Council meeting, June 7, 2021

Henderson said similar motions have been passed by municipalities across the country. This campaign coincides with an effort by News Media Canada to step up pressure on the federal government to pass legislation to "rein in" Google and Facebook before Parliament rises for the summer amid anticipation of a fall election. The newspaper lobby would like something similar to what Australia passed earlier this year requiring Google and Facebook to negotiate compensation agreements with publishers.

Henderson said he didn’t know the specifics of the federal legislation. Nonetheless, the motion passed unanimously. That struck me as odd, but judging from the discussion, councillors were motivated by a desire to get on the record their recognition of the importance of local news coverage and the role that it plays in helping them do their job.

Fair enough. We agree that a healthy news media is essential to the proper functioning of democracy, and it means something for politicians to say that out loud, because they are often criticized by said media.

We should consider, however, whether the proposed cure is worse than the disease. As Joshua Benton pointed out in Nieman Lab, what happened in Australia is not all it’s cracked up to be. A bill in the Senate that aims to force the tech giants to pay royalties to Canadian journalism organizations is similarly flawed, as was eloquently explained by Sen. Paula Simons (a former Edmonton Journal colleague of both mine and McKeen’s) in a piece for The Line. It’s not clear that such a use of Canada’s copyright law would work, and even if it did, it would favour the incumbents. "At what point is it actually unfair to help big companies like Postmedia and Torstar and Bell Globe Media, while making it harder for new start ups and innovative news platforms to get a start?" she wrote. "Is there a point at which we simply have to acknowledge that the era of the big legacy newspaper companies is over?" In Taproot’s view, we have indeed reached that point.

A screenshot from the June 7 meeting where city council called on the federal government “to ensure an ecosystem for a healthy news media to serve all Canadians.”

Council can take action itself

At any rate, there’s not much we can do to influence what the federal government decides to do or not do on this file. However, there is action that our municipal government could take to strengthen the health of local journalism in our city.

The City of Edmonton buys a lot of advertising. Between 2008 and 2018, it spent well over $7 million on ads in the Edmonton Journal, and council’s executive committee agreed to renew an agreement for up to $3.5 million more over three years in November of 2018. We know these figures because the contract is big enough to have to go to council for approval. That agreement ends on Dec. 31, 2021.

A substantial proportion of that amount had been for "legally required advertising" — certain notices that the Municipal Government Act used to require the City to place in the main local newspaper. The act no longer requires this, and in October of 2019, city council passed a bylaw providing "alternative methods for advertising proposed bylaws, resolutions meetings, public hearings, and other things required to be advertised by the City." Now most of that legally required advertising can appear on the City’s website instead of in paid ads in the Edmonton Journal.

While the ostensible reason for advertising in the Journal was to reach a substantial proportion of the population as required by the MGA, the actual outcome was to subsidize Postmedia — a debt-ridden, Toronto-based company that has continually cut local journalism — in a way that has been unavailable to any of its competitors. What Taproot co-founder Mack Male told executive committee in 2018 remains true today: "Paying Postmedia for legally required advertising is effectively a subsidy to a single outlet. The opportunity here is to consider whether that subsidy should be reduced and whether it could be spread across multiple outlets, especially those who will invest the money in building a brighter future for journalism right here in Edmonton."

The City no longer has to spend as much on print ads as it used to, and its current agreement expires at the end of this year. It still has to make sure as many people as possible know what it is up to. And council just passed a motion saying that healthy local media outlets are vital to democracy. So this seems like an excellent time to use that spending power in a way that accomplishes these goals. Even a fraction of what has been allocated for advertising in Postmedia would make a huge difference to local media outlets like Taproot that inform the community and are part of the connective tissue that makes a city work.

To be clear, the City wouldn’t be buying influence with such purchases. Postmedia’s journalists feel free to criticize city council and administration, and so would Taproot’s and those at any other reputable media outlet. If there were strings attached to that money, we wouldn’t take it, and I don’t see any evidence that the City has or wants such strings. Some outlets choose not to sell any advertising at all; we do, with a clear moral compass that directs us to give up revenue if it puts the integrity of our journalism at risk.

And one more thing: With so much of the City’s communications now taking place on its own website and social media channels, it seems plausible that an ever-larger proportion of the advertising budget will go to search engine marketing and social media marketing. This is the advertising world we live in now, and it is why Google and Facebook have eaten newspapers’ lunch. But if council truly believes that something should be done to support local journalism, then it shouldn’t send all of its advertising budget to the tech giants either. Spend some of it here on the local media ecosystem.

Meet the newest additions to Taproot Edmonton’s team

We’ve bolstered Taproot Edmonton’s editorial team with the addition of two more interns from local journalism schools.

Sara Gouda and Andy Trussler have joined Taproot Edmonton on field placements from NAIT and MacEwan.

Sara Gouda joins us from NAIT’s Radio and Television program. She was born in Egypt and earned a bachelor’s degree in mass communication with a concentration in journalism at the American University of Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates before coming to Canada to further her studies. She has done work for CNN Abu Dhabi, Sky New Arabia, and Foochia Magazine, in addition to NAIT NewsWatch and the NAIT Nugget.

"I’m excited to work on People’s Agenda to see what audiences are excited about, what they would like to read more on," she said. "Taproot will be a good and challenging fit to grow my strengths and also learn more."

Andy Trussler joins us from MacEwan University’s Bachelor of Communication Studies program, where they are in their fourth year of studies. Before moving to Edmonton, they served as the opinion editor at The Carillon at the University of Regina, and worked as a theatre instructor, a regional director of the Canadian Improv Games, a sexual violence activist, and a public speaker.

"Taproot has graciously provided me with the opportunity to do journalism for the community with the community, and I can’t wait to navigate the curiosities of real Edmontonians," they said. "The media’s future exists online, and I am delighted to pursue that future with the team at Taproot."

We’re grateful to have the opportunity to bring students on board through the field placement programs at NAIT and MacEwan, and we look forward to publishing their work. We’re also pleased to be able to again access funding through Venture for Canada to extend Andy’s stay with us.

More personnel news

Andy and Sara join Jackson Spring, who arrived in our virtual newsroom in January to do his MacEwan field placement and a Venture for Canada internship. Having completed those hours, Jackson is sticking around with us for a few more months.

Among his other duties, he has taken over as curator of the Regional Roundup, now that Stephen Cook has stepped away to pursue other interests. "It’s not rare for a journalist to learn more about their city by covering it — I was lucky to get the chance to learn more about a whole metro region," Stephen wrote in a farewell message to Regional Roundup readers. "As a born and raised Edmontonian, it’s been my pleasure to read about and share the bigger, brighter future that so many local leaders are working towards."

We have also welcomed Michelle Ferguson to the team. She puts The Pulse together and compiles the headlines that we draw to your attention every weekday morning. We’re happy to have her help to keep you informed.

We’re working on a revamped About page on Taproot Edmonton’s site to credit the whole team behind our operation.

How Taproot puts membership fees to work

I’d like to draw your attention to Taproot Edmonton’s latest big feature — Public purchasing power leaves small businesses on the outside looking in — not only because of the journalistic value, but also because of what it says about where we are right now.

First, the journalism. Back in January, there was a brouhaha when The Breakdown and CTV News revealed that the provincial procurement of reusable masks to be used in schools ignored the Alberta-based companies that had participated in a request-for-proposals process and granted the contract instead to a vendor in Education Minister Adriana LaGrange’s riding, in addition to Old Navy.

Plenty of coverage ensued, and we didn’t cover this particular scandal ourselves. But it left us with a question that speaks to the bigger picture of how decisions are made, which is something Taproot likes to dig into: To what extent do governments "shop local" and should they do it more?

The government procurement process, both at the municipal and provincial level, is outdated and opaque, TIQ Software’s Jason Suriano told Taproot’s Ryan Stephens in a recent feature story. (Supplied photo)

So, we assigned Ryan Stephens to look into it. He learned there is a growing interest among governments to take economic growth and social improvement into account when making purchasing decisions, but as Claire Theaker-Brown of Unbelts and Jason Suriano of TIQ Software told him, that process remains opaque and difficult to navigate, which means a lot of opportunities have been lost. Read the whole story to see what they mean.

What does this story say about where Taproot is at?

When we started, all we published was longform features. We couldn’t afford the time or money to do daily coverage, but thanks to our first paying members, we had enough revenue to commission stories based on the curiosity of our community. One such story was Ryan’s piece on the motorcyclists who congregate at the Tim Hortons on Whyte, published in 2017.

This was a good way to start, but the metabolism was a little slow for us to really get traction. Our weekly roundup newsletters helped speed it up, while diversifying our revenue to include not only membership but also sponsorship. Roundups also opened our eyes to the opportunity to create a briefings service for businesses and organizations. This made it possible to hire Emily Rendell-Watson as Taproot Edmonton’s managing editor, and that increased capacity enabled us to speed up our metabolism even more with The Pulse, our daily newsletter.

As we built all of that, those longform features fell by the wayside, mostly for lack of time to think, organize, assign, and edit. But we’ve got our feet under us now, at least somewhat, and we’re able to bring such explanatory work into the world again more regularly.

We’re also getting to a place where we can publish stories pitched by freelancers, as we did with Tom Murray’s recent story, Indigenous entrepreneurs on the rise in Alberta. And we’re in a position to run longer pieces written by staff, too, as with Misleading or helpful: Should city councillors use branded graphics on social media? and Building Innovate Edmonton: The first four months.

Free to read, but not free to make

One thing that has not changed about Taproot, from Day 1, is that our journalism is available for everyone to read, whether they pay us or not. We have never wavered from our belief that for journalism to do its job, it has to be widely accessible.

Many outlets believe that if they can’t sell your attention to advertisers (because advertisers now pay Facebook and Google instead), then they must erect a paywall to force you to pay for their journalism directly. This reveals a lack of imagination. And it risks putting well-researched, well-edited stories out of reach while the market is flooded with free but lousy work, not to mention misinformation and disinformation.

All of the work we publish is high-quality and free to read. But no one works for Taproot for free. Membership fees are part of what allows us to pay our staff and freelancers to do this work.

So, if you are one of our paying members, thank you! And if you are one of our original paying members, please know how eternally grateful we are for your continued support through all of these iterations. We hope you are happy to see us returning to the kind of journalism you originally signed up for, augmented by a whole lot more.

If you read Taproot but have not yet become a paying member, consider hopping on board. It costs $10 a month or $100 a year to help us pay for more local journalism and to send a signal that this kind of work is valuable to you.

Another progress report on the People’s Agenda

We’re halfway through our series of listening sessions on the issues raised by the initial respondents to our People’s Agenda project, so this is a good time to look back at what we’ve learned and look ahead to what’s next.

How we got here

The series of events we’ve been holding throughout March and April are the latest stop in a journey that started last summer with the Election SOS training that I had an opportunity to attend with Elise Stolte. We used that opportunity to imagine what it would look like if Taproot’s municipal election coverage were centred on the issues that are important to Edmontonians, instead of being focused on who’s running or who’s winning or who’s sniping at whom.

In September, we put our question out into the world: What key question do you want the candidates to talk about as they compete for votes in the 2021 municipal election, and why?

Here is Taproot’s roadmap for the People’s Agenda, as depicted by steering committee member Elise Stolte in an April 7 talk for an Election SOS event called Better Journalism: A Roadmap for Engaged Democracy.

We turned the first 150-ish responses into a first draft of the People’s Agenda, which was based on a whole lot of data-crunching from Madeleine Stout and then a fair amount of synthesis by me into eight questions that generally captured what respondents were concerned about.

We then turned those questions into the basis for a series of listening sessions to enable us to hear more about what was on people’s minds and to convey that to a wider audience. We hired Chris Chang-Yen Phillips to plan, program, and run the events, taking advantage of his experience with creating meaningful engagement.

A look at the listening sessions

Chris has brought in a wide variety of guests — such as Christy Morin of Arts on the Ave, Barry Morishita of the Alberta Urban Municipalities Assocation, and Emily Grisé of the University of Alberta’s school of urban planning — to set the scene for each topic and connect the issues to what city council has done and can do.

He has also tapped into his network of civicly minded folks to facilitate the breakout sessions that follow those talks, which has been a great way to nurture a welcoming and productive conversation, while freeing up Taproot staff to capture what has been said.

Our intern, Jackson Spring, has been listening to each session and recapping them on our site.

Here’s where we’re at — Jackson’s recaps are linked to the topics that have already happened, and the registration pages are linked to those that are still to come:

What happens next

These listening sessions will continue through April. We also have a lot of material aside from the recaps to sift through in search of feature ideas, which we’ll assign and publish in the coming months.

We are continuing to collect answers to our initial question. Many thanks to community partners such as Rat Creek Press and SPANN for publishing and sharing our invitation for responses. We have been working with Michelle Bartleman‘s online journalism class at MacEwan University to engage with other communities on this topic, which we hope will lead to some stories. We have more work to do to reach out to people who aren’t already familiar with Taproot, and that will be the focus of our efforts into the summer.

We need to synthesize the answers we’ve received since the first draft, as well as what we’ve heard at the listening sessions and will hear from future engagements. That will allow us to put out a revised People’s Agenda, which will form the basis of the voters’ guide we will publish in the fall, some time between the end of the nomination period and the opening of advanced polls. The voters’ guide will tell you where the candidates stand on the issues that matter to you, so you can make an informed decision.

Many thanks to everyone who has participated so far. This has been an instructive process, and we’re eager to see where it takes us next.

Taproot Edmonton reflects on the weekend everything changed

This weekend marks the anniversary of when everything changed. In addition to that look back, Taproot Edmonton has been documenting milestones throughout the pandemic on our COVID-19 in Edmonton timeline.

In this post, the Taproot Edmonton team reflects on the weekend that everything changed.

Shared by Coun. Aaron Paquette on March 17, 2020 (Twitter)

Emily:

It’s hard to believe it has been one year, and at the same time, it feels like it’s been much longer. While I don’t remember the particular details of the day everything changed in Edmonton, numerous moments over the past year stand out. My life certainly looks very different today than it did in March 2020. I haven’t seen my family, who live across the country, in a year and a half. I’ve talked to Canadians stranded all over the world as borders shut down, interviewed world-class scientists and doctors as they tirelessly worked on a vaccine and warned of caution fatigue, and learned how to produce stories from home, with an inquisitive dog at my side ready to "say hello" mid-interview.

I’m not sure our world, and Edmonton, will ever be the same again. While I would like to one day say goodbye to the copious amounts of hand sanitizer and my collection of leopard and floral face masks, I won’t be as willing to give up the opportunities to reconnect with friends and family, and the slower pace the pandemic has forced us to live by at times. Here’s to hoping we’ll be able to gather as a community like we used to again soon. Take care and stay healthy.

Jackson:

That whole semester of university, I was helping publish a weekly newspaper as a class project. On March 11, the reporters had all of their stories lined up for the next issue: a typical spread of campus issues, restaurant reviews, and problems with the city’s snow clearing efforts. The morning of March 12, the professor walked into class and said "cancel everything — we’re doing a special issue on this virus instead." The university cancelled in-person classes on March 13, and I haven’t been in a classroom since.

Karen:

I remember the last time I shook someone’s hand. I hesitated. He assured me he had washed his hands. I relented. I haven’t done it since.

That was on March 12, 2020, which feels to me like the last normal day, though I guess it wasn’t that normal. The World Health Organization had declared COVID-19 a pandemic the day before, and that night, I emailed the organizer of a conference I was speaking at to say I understood if she had to cancel. Things were definitely starting to feel strange.

But I went to work as usual at Unit B on March 12. I had meetings, shook hands, rode the bus home, did the regular things. And then things stopped being usual.

An in-person meeting on March 13 became a virtual one. The iMedia conference was indeed postponed. Instead, I called in to Don’t Call Me a Guru. My kids went to school at their school buildings for the last time; as of March 15, they were home.

Everyone who has lived through the last year has a story like this. You should write yours down, too. The historians of the future will thank you.

Mack:

COVID-19 was all over the news that week, but it is Friday, March 13, 2020 that sticks out in my mind as the inflection point. I covered the emergency city council meeting and news conference that day and it became crystal clear that things were about to change in a big way.

My family had gone to West Edmonton Mall the weekend before. We saw the sea lions, explored the kids’ section of the bookstore, and stopped for coffee. The last event I went to, on Tuesday, March 10, was the kickoff for Downtown Dining Week at the Art Gallery of Alberta. Those normal, indoor experiences feel like a lifetime ago now.

Over the course of that week, some of my coffee meetings became virtual while others were cancelled. In every conversation, there was uncertainty, especially after the pandemic was declared and the NHL season was "paused."

The weekend was spent at home, a small preview of the weeks and months to come with daycares also closed as of March 15.

Now a year later, with vaccines rolling out, it feels like we’re at another turning point. A hopeful one this time.

Taproot launches People’s Agenda listening sessions

It’s time to dive deeper into the issues raised so far in our People’s Agenda project.

We invite you to join us for some or all of our weekly listening sessions to further uncover what is important to you as we head towards the municipal election on Oct. 18.

The first one is set for noon March 11, and it will tackle this question that we’ve synthesized from a number of responses: Will our taxes be well-spent? Sign up to attend.

Chris Chang-Yen Phillips will guide the discussion at noon on March 11 with Mack Male’s help. Register to attend.

This isn’t just about property taxes. We’ve heard from people who want the city to spend less, but we also heard from people who want it to spend its resources differently, and others who are concerned about reduced funding from other orders of government. So let’s talk.

The wonderful Chris Chang-Yen Phillips will host this series. Taproot was pleased to support a season of his Let’s Find Out podcast focusing on answering questions about how humans and nature interact with each other in and around our city, and we know him to be a creative and genial facilitator who draws the best out of participants.

We’ve tapped Taproot co-founder Mack Male to be a resource for the March 11 event. He’ll apply his knowledge from years of observing City Hall to explain how the budget works, what kinds of spending decisions city council makes, and what challenges we can anticipate in the 2021-25 term.

Then it will be your turn. Tell us more about what you want city council to care about, and help us make sure Taproot Edmonton’s election coverage is focused on what matters to you.

Save these dates for future sessions. They’ll be at noon:

  • March 18: Will Edmonton be a good place to live?
  • March 25: Will city council have integrity?
  • April 1: Will we be able to move around the city easily?
  • April 8: Will we spend less on police?
  • April 15: Will we house everyone?
  • April 22: Will we act on climate change?
  • April 29: Will we build our city intelligently?

A word about the Digital News Subscription Tax Credit

It’s tax time, which means some of our paying members are wondering about whether they can claim the new digital news subscription tax credit for their Taproot membership.

The answer is no, as we are not deemed to be a qualified Canadian journalism organization (QCJO), notwithstanding our dedication to local journalism. When the tax measures were first introduced, we were too small to apply. We may still be too small, though we have grown since then (it depends on who you count). Also, some of our B2B clients are crown corporations, municipal corporations, or government agencies, which also appears to be disqualifying, even though that’s separate from the journalism side of the business.

Photo by recha oktaviani on Unsplash

In any case, we had qualms about the idea of designating some media outlets as QCJOs, because it risks attaching an air of illegitimacy to those who don’t qualify for reasons that have nothing to do with the quality of journalism they produce. The program is really set up to prop up newspaper companies, even though they continue to cut jobs and close newspapers while paying millions to their executives. Erin Millar notes that the program did improve somewhat from what was originally proposed, but it still leaves much to be desired.

That said, we will look into whether we can get QCJO status, for the sake of our members who would appreciate that write-off.

Taproot receives $23.5K to market B2B product

We’re pleased to announce that we’ve received funding from the Investment Readiness Program, administered by the Community Foundations of Canada, to better understand and reach the market for the product that largely funds our social purpose organization.

We now have $23,500 to spend on market research and the development of a marketing plan for our briefings service, the innovation we’ve come up with so we don’t have to rely solely on membership or sponsorship to fund our local journalism operation. We’ve engaged Purppl to help us figure out who needs what we sell and how to connect with them.

How is Taproot a social purpose organization?

A social purpose organization, or SPO, is "a nonprofit, a charity, a co-operative, a social enterprise for-profit, or a hybrid structure with a clear social, environmental, and/or cultural mission at the core of their operation," says Innoweave.

As Futurpreneur puts it, it’s simplistic to imagine a dichotomy between profit-maximizing businesses versus charities that maximize social and environmental returns. Rather, it’s a continuum:

We’re in that blended returns zone as a for-profit company that exists to achieve social benefits, i.e. a more informed and connected community through sustainable local journalism.

What good do we do?

We believe a city works better when its people are informed about what’s going on and feel a sense of connection with each other. Local journalism plays a role in that, and the way we do it is particularly geared towards that.

The UN Sustainable Development Goals have become a guiding principle in the social enterprise space. Certified B Corporations measure themselves against the SDGs, and ventures applying for SheEO indicate the SDGs they are working on, for example.

The SDGs we address are Goal 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities, and Goal 16: Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions. These are big goals, and the impact that any individual organization like ours can have is tiny, but it’s through the accumulation of all of these small actions in the right direction that we will ultimately make a difference.

This is why our journalism is free to read, even though it isn’t free to make. It’s also why we don’t have a business model that relies on traffic (and thus outrage). And it’s why we have embarked on projects like the People’s Agenda, even though there is no direct revenue from such endeavours.

So how do we pay for it?

As we’ve said before, our business model has three streams: membership, sponsorship and advertising, and our briefings service. The first two are pretty conventional in the media business, though even there, we differ from many legacy media outlets in that we don’t put a paywall on our stories and we don’t sell the kind of advertising that follows you around the internet.

Our third revenue stream is this business-to-business service we sell. It is separate from the journalism side, but we apply the same technology and methodology to pay attention to and convey what’s going on. We simply shift our focus to the topics or communities that our clients are curious about, which they then use for internal intelligence or external communications, or both.

This suits us better than other revenue streams that media companies have pursued, such as sponsored content or events. It’s definitely more aligned with our goals than, say, an online casino. And it has made it possible for us to hire journalists and advance our ambitions beyond Edmonton much more quickly than we would have been able to if we relied solely on membership and sponsorship.

We’re grateful to have access to the IRP grant to further develop that side of our business, and we’re pleased to have yet another signal that we’re onto something.

What’s next?

We’re working with Purppl over the next few months to develop a plan to take our briefings service to customers throughout North America. In the meantime, Taproot will continue to provide a daily look at what’s going on in Edmonton, along with weekly deep dives into tech, food, the region, health innovation, the arts, and business.

If you’d like to help, here’s what you can do:

Taproot does some more pruning

Taproot Edmonton is publishing the final edition of the Media Roundup on Feb. 15. From time-to-time you’ll still find coverage of media in Edmonton in The Pulse and on our website.

The evolution of the Media Roundup

We launched the Media Roundup in July 2018 to cover media, public relations, and communications in Edmonton.

I had been writing a blog series called Media Monday Edmonton since early 2011 and it made sense to bring that into Taproot when we started developing our roundups. We expanded the purview of the roundup and added events and job opportunities.

In June 2019, Linda Hoang came on board to take over the Media Roundup and she did a great job. But with her own growing online empire, Linda decided to step away and wrote her final edition last month.

Photo by Mark Tegethoff on Unsplash

Why are we making this change?

Linda’s departure accelerated discussions we were already having about how the Media Roundup fits into what we’re building with Taproot Edmonton.

We continue to strive for "less but better" and just as with the end of the Council Roundup, we think this change will help us focus on other efforts, such as The Pulse.

There’s a popular quote in writing circles that "you must kill your darlings." Originally attributed to William Faulkner and popularized by Stephen King, the phrase refers to characters, paragraphs, chapters, or other bits of writing that we’re fond of and want to keep, even if they get in the way of serving the reader.

It has been ten years since I posted the first entry in Media Monday Edmonton. Paying attention to and writing about the media so regularly definitely factored into the creation of Taproot. I’m grateful for that, and I’m ready to let it go.

What’s next?

As appropriate, we’ll include media and communications-related items in The Pulse, the Arts Roundup, Business Roundup, and other publications so please continue to send us your suggestions and tips.

We are always open to opportunities to better serve our community and welcome your feedback.

And if you haven’t already done so, sign up to get The Pulse for free!