Nieman Foundation at Harvard
HOME
          
LATEST STORY
Axios sells for $525 million, to a company that seemed to be getting out of the media business
ABOUT                    SUBSCRIBE
March 15, 2022, 1:51 p.m.
Business Models

“News as a public utility”: Outlier Media and Detour Detroit are joining forces

“We’re going past the idea of thinking ‘How can we get someone to give $5 a month?’ and thinking, ‘How do we inspire people to action?’”

Two women-led journalism organizations in Detroit — Outlier Media and Detour Detroit — are combining under the Outlier umbrella, the companies announced Tuesday.

Outlier Media, founded in 2016 by Sarah Alvarez, treats information as a key tenet of journalism and texts with residents about local issues like evictions and health, “to hold landlords, municipal government, and elected officials accountable for longstanding problems.” Outlier also teamed up with City Bureau to launch a Documenters program for Detroit, training and paying people to make information from public meetings actually public.

“I was not satisfied with covering low-income communities for a higher-income audience. I wanted to cover issues for and with low-income news consumers,” Alvarez told Nieman Lab in 2018.

Outlier is currently fiscally sponsored by nonprofit news company MuckRock, but in 2021 it received nearly $1 million from the American Journalism Project and, two months ago, started the process of becoming an independent nonprofit.

Detour Detroit was founded by Ashley Woods Branch — a 2018 visiting Nieman Fellow — and Kate Abbey-Lambertz as a Detroit-focused newsletter startup aimed at millennials. Detour received initial funding from The Information’s accelerator program. The newsletter has grown to 20,000 subscribers.

Alvarez remains editor-in-chief of Outlier Media; Candice Fortman remains Outlier’s executive director. Woods Branch is becoming outlier’s senior director of audience and growth, and Abbey-Lambertz will serve as product strategy and engagement manager. Outlier will soon launch a news website for its accountability journalism, and the team will think about how it can expand from 1:1 text conversations to make its work more generally accessible.

Detour’s membership program had about 600 people paying $5 a month, but the membership idea is also being rethought because Outlier is a different type of organization.

“We’re going past the idea of thinking ‘How can we get someone to give $5 a month?’ and thinking, ‘How do we inspire people to action?’” Woods Branch told me. That could mean attending volunteer events or showing up to take notes with Documenters.

“Membership as a way to reward readers is good and fine, but our community needs more,” Woods Branch added. “We want to figure out how we can mobilize people to think of news as a public utility….There are going to be ways to join this community that don’t involve giving money by credit card.”

Photo of the newly expanded Outlier Media team by Nick Hagen.

POSTED     March 15, 2022, 1:51 p.m.
SEE MORE ON Business Models
Show tags
 
Join the 60,000 who get the freshest future-of-journalism news in our daily email.
Axios sells for $525 million, to a company that seemed to be getting out of the media business
Atlanta-based Cox Enterprises has spent the past decade selling off most of its media properties as it brings in billions from cable. So why dive back in?
Blame Craig: How Facebook’s AI bot explains the decline of the news industry
“Definitely craigslist…. I don’t know that facebook is really to blame for anything specific.” And maybe the Pope did endorse Trump after all!
The Pink Sauce debacle is the logical next step of the “Instagrammable” movement
Pink Sauce may be a sign that we’ve reached the next phase in an internet culture that has privileged aesthetic over function for years.