We’re merging Music into the Arts Roundup

We have made the decision to merge the Music Roundup into the Arts Roundup. The final edition of the Music Roundup will be published on Thursday, Sept. 3, 2020 and starting the following week we’ll be including more music-related coverage in the Arts Roundup. All existing Music Roundup subscribers will automatically receive the Arts Roundup instead.

The Music Roundup has actually been a key part of our progress over the last two years, so we haven’t made this decision lightly.

The context

We launched the Music Roundup in July 2018 as our second roundup. It was an important step as it helped further validate the idea behind the roundups and provided another place for us to iterate.

The Music Roundup was originally curated by Sandra Sperounes, a veteran music writer who had a long career at the Edmonton Journal and then as an entertainment columnist on CBC Radio. It was an incredible opportunity for us to learn from her.

When Sandra moved on to new things, we brought Emily Rendell-Watson on board. In addition to her interest in music and curation/writing skills, Emily quickly made herself indispensable by taking on most of the editing work for our other roundups.

In August 2019, the Edmonton Arts Council supported our efforts to offer local arts coverage by launching the Arts Roundup, curated by Fawnda Mithrush. It made sense at the time to add a new roundup rather than rebrand the Music Roundup, even though we knew there’d be some overlap.

Edmonton Kaleido Festival - 2018
While the Music Roundup is going away, our music coverage is not. The Arts Roundup already contains some of our music coverage and now you’ll find even more there. (Photo of the 2018 Kaleido Family Arts Festival by IQRemix)

The decision

As they say, hindsight is 20/20. If we were starting fresh, we likely wouldn’t launch two separate roundups! We’d launch one that covers all aspects of local arts, including music, theatre, dance, visual arts, literary arts, and more. Having one roundup for all of our local arts coverage will help us concentrate our resources.

COVID-19 also contributed to this decision. Arts and entertainment have been significantly impacted by the pandemic, which has in turn affected our coverage. While we hope for a return to "normal" in the near future, we know that the current state of affairs will continue for quite some time. Our approach needs to adapt accordingly.

What’s next

We are still committed to helping Edmontonians better understand the local music scene, and we encourage musicians, venues, promoters, and everyone else in the industry to continue sending news and other updates to us at hello@taprootedmonton.ca.

If you’re not already a subscriber, please check out the Arts Roundup!

Welcome to the Taproot Publishing blog

Welcome to our new blog!

Wait — didn’t Taproot already have a blog? Yes, if you’ve been following us for a while, you’ll know that we have been blogging at taprootedmonton.ca for the past few years. But not anymore. Allow me to explain!

When we launched Taproot Edmonton back in 2016, all we had was a landing page. Initially we updated our members and readers exclusively through our email newsletter. Then in 2018, we launched a Taproot Edmonton blog. "A blog is an excellent tool to communicate what we’re working on, which is why we’re launching this one now," I wrote at the time. We were busy launching our roundups, and we used the blog to help spread the word about those efforts.

We did most of this work remotely using Microsoft Teams!

What you may not have realized is that our company is actually called Taproot Publishing Inc., a decision we made intentionally to reflect our ambition to create something that could grow beyond our hometown. Nowadays we think of Taproot Edmonton not only as the first of (hopefully) many local sites, but also as just one of the products that our company offers.

With the benefit of hindsight, it was a bit strange to share updates about our company, such as when we were selected to participate in ATB X, in the same place we published original journalism about Edmonton. It was OK when Taproot Edmonton was the only thing our company did, but that’s no longer the case.

Over the past few years, we’ve settled on a unique (and we think innovative) approach to making local media sustainable: we’re using the tools of journalism to offer B2B services to organizations, which provides a new and growing revenue stream alongside membership and sponsorship. We will have much more to share about our services in the future, and this blog is the place we’ll do just that. We’ll also use this space to share news about Taproot Edmonton, our other products, and our thoughts on the future of local media.

We’ve still got some work to do to make our web presence fully reflect what Taproot Publishing has evolved into, but this is a start. We’re excited to keep you informed about what we’re doing as we build a company that helps communities understand themselves better.

Meet our new Health Innovation Roundup curator

We’d like to introduce you to Hiba Kamal-Choufi, who started curating the Health Innovation Roundup a few weeks ago.

Hiba has been keeping a close eye on what’s going on in the health innovation space. As you can imagine, the past month has been quite a unique time to take over this particular roundup! Hiba has done a great job of curating the latest COVID-19-related news as well as other updates from the sector.

Hiba Kamal-Choufi, our new Health Innovation Roundup curator

Hiba started her career as a news editor in Beirut, covering stories that involved a range of topics, including the Arab uprisings in 2010 and 2011. After moving to Edmonton, she joined Shaw TV and has since held a number of communications positions. She has a master’s degree in communications and technology (MACT) from the University of Alberta and holds an M.A. in international relations and B.A. in journalism from Beirut, Lebanon. Hiba is currently the Director of Jobline and Email Marketing at IABC Edmonton.

The Health Innovation Roundup launched in the fall of 2018 with Catherine Griwkowsky as curator. We’re grateful to Catherine for all the work she did to keep readers informed and to help grow the roundup, and wish her all the best.

We’re thrilled to have Hiba on our roster of roundup curators who pay attention to what’s going on and distill it to its essence to make sure you are informed. Here’s the whole crew:

Be sure to subscribe so you don’t miss an edition. You can get up to two of these roundups for free if you join as a Taproot Reader.

If you become a Taproot Member, you can get as many roundups as you like, along with other perks. Plus you’ll be helping us pay for high-calibre local journalism from our curators and the freelancers we commission for original stories. We’re building what comes next — join us.

Answers to local questions about the COVID-19 pandemic

We have launched a COVID-19 microsite containing curated answers to questions about Edmonton’s response to and experience of the pandemic. Our objective is to help the local community understand this complex and quickly evolving topic better.

How the microsite came about

In the latest edition of our newsletter, sent on March 17, Karen wrote:

"In light of COVID-19 and the efforts to control its spread, we’re thinking about what more we can do to inform our community without contributing to the noise and information overload."

Our curators were already (and still are) collecting relevant news for our roundups, but we felt there might be an opportunity to do more. We invited readers to submit questions related to the pandemic. It wasn’t long before the first few questions came in and we’ve since received dozens more. That validated the need for Taproot to offer something more on this topic.

We discussed a number of different approaches for answering those questions. Given our resources, our expertise in curation, and our experience building microsites in the past, we felt that a microsite was the best approach for us.

What the microsite is for

The microsite contains questions posed by our community and answered by Taproot editors, based on primary documents and reliable published sources.

There’s no shortage of important information being shared about COVID-19 right now, but it is difficult to find answers to specific questions. Often the nugget of information you need is buried in the middle of an article or government document. You might also have to look at a large number of sources to get the complete answer.

Those are the problems the microsite aims to solve. You’ll find answers to specific questions, all in one place. Each answer contains links to sources and other information if you want dig deeper.

We don’t intend to publish the news of the day nor are we trying to be the destination for breaking news. The mainstream newsrooms in our city have that covered, and we are grateful to those journalists for their hard work, much of which we are pointing to in our answers and in our roundups. Our contribution is to simply and succinctly deliver what our readers say they want to know.

As Lauren Harris wrote at Columbia Journalism Review:

"In times of crisis, newsrooms ought not stop producing the news. But they can slow down, ask themselves what matters most, and be a calm guide for readers. Signal, not noise."

We strive to be that calm guide here in Edmonton.

What’s next

We have published a handful of entries thus far, and we’re working on many more. Keep your questions coming in, and we’ll keep the site updated with new curated answers. We’ll also update existing answers as new information arises.

As the pandemic evolves, so will the microsite. Send us your suggestions and feedback at hello@taprootedmonton.ca.

How sponsorship at Taproot works

In the spirit of doing a better job of telling our own story, here’s an update on how part of our business has evolved since we started.

From the very beginning of Taproot, we’ve worked to avoid being dependent an advertising-supported business model. We started with membership as our first revenue stream. Membership is an effective way to align incentives – the better we serve members, the more of them we should be able to attract!

When we introduced our Roundups last year, we added sponsorship as our second revenue stream. We were inspired by popular newsletters from around the world that offer organizations an opportunity to display their brand inside each edition, to help make the newsletters sustainable. Sponsorship offers us another way to align incentives – the better we serve the community that sponsors care about, the more of them we should be able to attract!

The sponsors you see in our Roundups are supporters of the work we do and their financial contributions help to make our publications sustainable. The benefit they receive, in addition to ongoing brand awareness, is to be associated with something that (hopefully) is making a positive impact in the community they care about.

We have three types of sponsors. Title sponsors make the largest financial contribution and so receive the largest benefit, with their logo in the top and bottom of each edition, on our website, and special mention on social media. Our Cultivators are the square logos you see inside each edition. And on occasion we will promote relevant events through ad hoc sponsorship.

To be clear, none of our sponsors get any say over the content of the roundup. Our curators and editors determine what the lead story is and which headlines and events are included in each edition. We maintain editorial independence, which benefits readers of course, but also sponsors. It’s in their best interests to have a publication that the community trusts.

Our first allegiance is and always will be to the reader. If readers can’t trust us, we’ll fail at our mission to help the community understand itself better. In order to serve readers though, we need to have money coming in. We hope that we’ve struck the right balance with sponsorship.

If you have questions about this or if you’d like to learn more about sponsorship, send us an email at hello@taprootedmonton.ca.

A commitment to transparency

In early 2015, Edmonton’s City Council adopted the Open City Policy, an important document that articulates the City of Edmonton’s commitment “to bring to action the Open City principles of transparency, participation, collaboration, inclusiveness and innovation.”

Yet policies don’t implement themselves, and that’s often where the heavy lifting needs to be done. For an organization as large as the City of Edmonton (with 14,000+ employees) it’s clear that writing a set of principles is a very different challenge than applying them to everyday work. Truly becoming “open by default” requires persistence. A little public pressure doesn’t hurt, either!

Edmonton Journal columnist Elise Stolte has demonstrated again and again her commitment to this work. Most recently, she shared a “win” involving the construction of the Valley Line LRT. Stolte asked the City for the non-conformance reports it files to track TransEd’s performance, but the City refused to provide them. She appealed to the City’s freedom of information co-ordinators and was again rebuffed. So she appealed to the provincial commissioner, who determined Stolte is right and the City should release the reports.

Unfortunately, she still doesn’t have the reports. Facing a leave of absence that will take her out of the city, Stolte concludes that “transparency cannot depend on individual journalists, especially now that newsrooms are smaller, and it can’t depend on this formal, legal structure with deadlines, extensions and co-ordinators.”

Stolte concludes:

“A city that shares information freely is admitting it will never have everything perfect. When it shares, it’s inviting the rest of the community to come along. It’s an act of humility that builds bridges.”

Stolte’s persistent effort on behalf of Edmontonians is incredibly important work. Others deserve recognition here as well, such as CBC Edmonton’s Janice Johnston who led the effort to have Edmonton police share the names of homicide victims.

We’re doing our part too. While live-tweeting Executive Committee on Monday, it became clear that councillors were going to move an important discussion about role clarity in Edmonton’s innovation sector to the November shareholder meeting, which is private. I tweeted my dissent to a few members of the committee.

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.jsThe next day, Councillor Andrew Knack and Mayor Don Iveson agreed the discussion should be public.

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.jsOn Wednesday afternoon, Councillor Knack filed the following notice of motion:

“That EEDC work with TEC Edmonton, Health City, and other stakeholders and report back on the status of the recommendations in the YEG Innovation Compass Report. This report should specifically address opportunities to reduce overlap, clarify roles and governance, accelerate the technology economy, and better serve the municipal innovation ecosystem.”

Assuming his motion is carried at next week’s council meeting, a report will come back providing the public with more information and importantly, another opportunity to participate in the discussion.

I know I wasn’t the only one who reached out to members of council to let them know how important it is that this discussion be held publicly. And that’s the point. It’ll take the persistent effort of all of us to ensure that the City of Edmonton and City Council adhere to the principles of transparency they’ve articulated. We’ll keep at it.

Introducing the Business Roundup

We recently launched our newest roundup: the Taproot Edmonton Business Roundup.

Each week we bring together the latest on the companies, entrepreneurs, employees, investors, leaders, and others shaping Edmonton’s economy. Read the Business Roundup to stay informed on what’s happening in local business. Sign up here to get the Business Roundup delivered to your inbox.

We are constantly gathering business-related updates from a variety of sources and each week we distill what we’ve discovered into an email update containing everything you need to know about local business. We save you time and keep you informed, and we add context where appropriate to help make sense of the news.


I (Mack) am currently writing the Business Roundup. I have been writing about urban affairs for more than 15 years at mastermaq.ca and have cultivated great information sources during that time. That said, I have my hands full building the engine that makes Taproot go, so we’re looking for a talented curator to help us tackle this beat! Learn more and apply here.

We believe that beat reporting is a critical part of the intelligence gathering that we do at Taproot. Paying concerted attention to a local topic that Edmontonains are curious about helps us ensure the stories we produce serve the community. We have covered business in the past with our stories on building an AI industry and the expectations facing 104 Street. Of course, our existing roundups like Tech and Food also cover aspects of business.

We’ll publish the Business Roundup for Taproot Members and subscribers first, each Friday morning, with social media shares to follow later. You can see the launch edition here. Let us know what you think! Your feedback will help us improve the roundup and make it even more useful.

You can read the Business Roundup for free, because we believe good stories should reach as many people as possible. Taproot Members get it first though, and will have access to the full Business Roundup archive and other benefits. You can join Taproot as a paying member or a free reader here.

Introducing the Food Roundup

This week we’re excited to share our newest roundup with you: the Taproot Edmonton Food Roundup.

Each week we bring together the latest on the restaurants, chefs, producers, events, and other updates from Edmonton’s food scene. Sign up here to get the Food Roundup delivered to your inbox.

We are constantly gathering food-related updates from a variety of sources and each week we distill what we’ve discovered into an email update containing everything you need to know about local food – the cream of the crop! We save you time and keep you informed, and we add context where appropriate to help make sense of the news.

Sharon Yeo is curating and writing the Food Roundup. She has been writing Food Notes on her blog for years and will continue doing so. Taproot readers will benefit from her experience and attention to Edmonton’s food scene, and we’ll work together to produce even more great coverage of local food.

We believe that beat reporting is a critical part of the intelligence gathering that we do at Taproot. Paying concerted attention to a local topic that Edmontonains are curious about helps us ensure the stories we produce serve the community. On the food beat this effort has already borne fruit as we were first to tell you about the City Market’s impending move away from 104 Street.

We’ll publish the Food Roundup for Taproot Members and subscribers first, each Tuesday morning, with social media shares to follow later. You can see the launch edition here. Let us know what you think! Your feedback will help us improve the roundup and make it even more useful.

You can read the Food Roundup for free, because we believe good stories should reach as many people as possible. Taproot Members get it first though, and will have access to the full Food Roundup archive and other benefits. You can join Taproot as a paying member or a free reader here.

Tech Roundup Review: January 2019

Every Tuesday morning we publish the Tech Roundup, a newsletter full of the latest headlines & happenings in Edmonton’s technology community. In addition to the curated, easy-to-scan lists of news and events, each edition includes one or two featured items which are the updates highlighted below. Sign up here to get the Tech Roundup by email each week.

Here’s our look back at the month of January 2019 as captured by our Tech Roundups.

January 8 – BioWare co-founders appointed to the Order of Canada

BioWare co-founders Dr. Ray Muzyka and Dr. Greg Zeschuk were the only Edmontonians among 103 new appointments to the Order of Canada in December. The two co-founders were named Members of the Order of Canada for their "revolutionary contributions to the video game industry" and as developers and co-founders "of an internationally renowned studio." In this edition we also highlighted the selection of the founding members of the Edmonton Advisory Council on Startups (EACOS), the refinancing and shareholder consolidation announced by Yardstick Software, and an Alberta Venture feature on Testfire Labs.

January 15 – Alberta AI Business Plan funding ask submitted to Province

The Alberta AI Business Plan, developed by a steering committee made up of local investors, entrepreneurs, service providers, and academics, was released outlining a vision to make AI "a billion dollar industry in the province by 2025." A funding ask was submitted to the Government of Alberta to "kickstart the accelerator and pre-seed funding". In this edition we also highlighted Amii’s announcement that it will host the Deep Learning & Reinforcement Learning Summer School this year, the selection of Testfire Labs as a finalist in the AI category for SXSW Pitch, and a development from the University of Alberta that could make a new generation of lithium ion batteries with 10 times the charge capacity of current batteries.

January 22 – Chris Lumb steps down as TEC Edmonton CEO

After nearly ten years with the organization, Chris Lumb has decided to step down as CEO of TEC Edmonton, effective June 30, 2019. “With outstanding staff and management, a strong culture and excellent client outcomes, TEC will continue to do outstanding work helping to grow emerging technology companies in the community,” he said. In this edition we also highlighted Arden Tse’s move from the Venture Mentoring Service to Yaletown Partners’ Accelerate II fund, the news that Rising Tide’s Ashif Mawji was inducted into the 2019 Alberta Business Hall of Fame, and that Testfire Labs and AltaML were added to the Government of Canada’s list of qualified suppliers for artificial intelligence.

January 29 – Applied Quantum Materials receives funding to turn windows into solar panels

University of Alberta spin-off company Applied Quantum Materials was one of 29 successful projects in the Climate Change Innovation Technology Framework (CCITF) – Clean Technology Development program, receiving a $420,000 grant from Alberta Innovates to use nanomaterials to turn windows into see-through solar panels. In this edition we also highlighted F12.net’s acquisition of BC-based Level4 Technologies, the City of Edmonton’s new online system for managing recreation program and facility bookings, and comments from UCP leader Jason Kenney on cryptocurrency.

Popular Clicks

These were the top 5 most clicked on items from the month:

That’s a wrap on January! Sign up here to get the Tech Roundup by email every Tuesday morning.

Thank you to our Tech Roundup sponsors: Advanced Technology Centre, Amii, EEDC, Startup Edmonton, Stormboard, TEC Edmonton, Jobber, Testfire Labs, VMS, Instamek, and CompuVision.

Community-driven, audience-funded journalism at NASH81

Last week I had the opportunity to speak at NASH81: Refine, the annual gathering of Canada’s student journalists. This year’s event was hosted by the University of Calgary’s independent student publication The Gauntlet. Organizers put together an exciting schedule with talks on podcasting, visual storytelling, beatwriting, ethics, humour writing, freelancing, photojournalism, and much more.

I participated in a panel discussion that explored the question, is the future of journalism crowd-funded and community-driven? Joining me on the panel were Erin Millar, CEO of The Discourse, and Jeremy Klazsus, founder of The Sprawl. Our moderator was Katrina Ingram, strategic advisor at the Alberta Podcast Network and host of the Back to School Again podcast.

While there are some differences between our organizations, there are far more similarities. Each publication is pursuing an audience-pay model in which a significant proportion of revenue comes directly from members or patrons. The idea is to serve readers rather than advertisers, which the panel agreed is more likely to result in high quality journalism that is better aligned with what the community wants.

Another similarity is that content is accessible to everyone – you won’t find any paywalls here! The panel identified two key drivers behind this. The first is that for a story to have an impact, it needs to be widely consumed. Artificial barriers that get in the way of accessing content hinder our ability to make a difference in the communities we serve. The second is that supporters want our journalism to be available to those who can’t afford it and they’re happy to contribute toward making that possible.

Engagement is also critical to each of our organizations. We seek input from our community to help drive our journalism forward and to make sure we’re adding value with everything we do. The Discourse has a survey they ask members to take upon joining, The Sprawl actively solicits input via social media, and of course at Taproot we have the Story Garden. Everyone on the panel talked about the importance of listening.

We also discussed:

  • The importance of confronting inequity in journalism and how we must seek to avoid recreating legacy media’s lack of diversity
  • How the audience-pay model is built on trust which means sponsored content is a poor fit
  • That in serving our paying audience we tend not to chase the news of the day and instead practice what The Sprawl calls “slow journalism”
  • While the federal government’s funding announcement may have some positive impacts, there’s a risk it will simply prop up the legacy players rather than support badly needed innovation in Canadian media

As is the case with these sorts of discussions, there wasn’t enough time to say everything! The students in attendance asked great questions and I hope they found our approach to the future of journalism informative and inspiring.

For more on the topics we discussed, read “The rise of audience-funded journalism in Canada“, a report published by The Discourse in December 2018 with contributions from The Sprawl, Taproot Edmonton, and other digital independent news outlets across the country.