Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Overstory Media Group: The New Kid In (Some) Towns.


In case you missed the rollout and the very favourable press over the last few weeks, the Victoria-based Overstory Media Group is officially on-the-air or, more to the point, on the internet.

Here is the lede from one of those favourable stories Leylan Cecco  in The Guardian:

Local journalism has shed jobs faster than the coal industry, leaving swaths of North America as news deserts with little or no regular coverage.

But the grim prospects for an industry in decline didn’t deter the Canadian tech entrepreneur Andrew Wilkinson, who in 2019 hired a reporter and launched a daily newsletter in his home town, Victoria.

Emailed to subscribers early each morning, Capital Daily gave residents news highlights from around the city. Wilkinson bought advertising on Facebook and Google and subscribers started pouring in.

A year later, the venture had more than 40,000 readers, and within two years, the Capital Daily has transformed from morning digest of the city’s news into an enterprising outlet publishing long-form investigative features.

Now, building on the newsletter’s success, a startup media group has unveiled ambitious plans to replicate the model across the country.

Overstory Media Group, which operates newsletter-based journalism outlets in British Columbia, including the Burnaby Beacon, Decomplicated and the Capital Daily, has announced plans to hire 250 new journalists and launch 50 new outlets by 2023.

“I’ve always believed community media was always going to survive,” said chief executive Farhan Mohamed, who co-founded the venture with Wilkinson. “But it just has to be done in the right way.”...


Personally, I've been reading one of OMG publication (yes, you know that acronymical moniker had to be constructed on purpose) that is not listed in the Guardian piece, above. That is 'The Fraser Valley Current',  mostly because I've admired the work of editor Ty Olsen from back in the days when he was with Black Press' Abbotsford News.

I also look at the OMG flagship 'Capital Daily' every once in awhile because that's the kind of thing I do when I'm not reading, say, the archives of 'The Independent Coast Observer' .

And, overall, I find the OMG offerings pleasant and interesting. I can also see that they are allowing their reporters to write long when they want to.

But what I don't see much of the stuff I really want to see in local news that the legacies have abandoned - like concerted City Hall coverage, for example.

And, frankly, based on the lack of advertising I'm not sure I can glean what the through line is for the business model, particularly given that the individual publications can be read, at least for the moment, as a free subscription.

Interestingly, however, I did find this little nugget on 'working with marketers', served up by OMG CEO Farhan Mohamed in a marketing industry publication called 'The Message':

...Rather than display advertising or sponsored content, OMG wants to work with marketers to develop more “unique concepts and unique experiences” that have greater meaning and resonance for the community supporting the media brand.

Simply selling eyeballs to brands that are irrelevant to the community upsets audiences and readers, has little value for the advertising brand, and is not a strategy for long-term sustainability, said Mohamed.

“What we are doing is making a conscious choice of who we want to work with, and only allowing a small select group in,” he said. “I don’t want to turn down money, but at the same time we will if it doesn’t make sense.”...

Interesting marketing speak that. And, truth be told, I have no idea what it actually means but it would appear that Mr. Mohamed and his partner, Victoria tech guy Andrew Wilkinson (who is young and most definitely not the AW we #bcpoli denizens know so well), have a plan.

Or one would hope they do given the following, served up by Mr. Wilkinson, on his own Twittmachine feed awhile ago when he was explaining how he brought all those eyeballs to Capital Daily:


You did read Point #3, above, right.

Mr. Wilkinson spent $200,000.00 on Facebook/Instagram ads to get people to subscribe - in Victoria!

Here's hoping he has some kind of genius, fool-proof plan in which shovelling money into the maw of the evil empire that helped destroy local journalism as we know it actually helps saves it.

Or some such thing.


And, if OMG decides to make a go of it on the more northerly end of VanIsle, here's hoping they enlist (and pay!) Laila Yuile, who this week goes all-in, all longform, on the return of Kevin Falcon - it's vintage Laila.


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