One of the side benefits of coming to Austin for South By Southwest Interactive: spending some time at the Texas Tribune, the non-profit news site launched last November to cover statewide politics, public policy and government. The enterprise started with venture capitalist John Thornton, who recruited Texas Monthly‘s Evan Smith as CEO and Editor in Chief. Smith and I spoke about the transition from magazine to web journalism, how Facebook and Twitter can—and should—be used for news, and ways to work with other non-profit journalism efforts across the U.S. A dozen of those news organizations will meet here in Austin next month under the auspices of the Knight Foundation to discuss just that.


Bay Citizen, Texas Tribune To Split $975,000 Knight Tech Grant


Two of the most prominent and well-funded non-profit news startups will use nearly $1 million from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation to build a free, open source publishing platform for other news organizations.  Led by their respective CTOs, the tech teams of The Texas Tribune and The Bay Citizen will focus on a system that can help sites without the same resources manage their content, encourage community engagement and raise revenue.

The funding will be split evenly, bringing the Bay Citizen‘s total funding to nearly $15 million; paidContent reported late last year that the San Francisco-based nonprofit had added $9.5 million to the $5 million in seed money from Warren Hellman. The Tribune also has fared well on the fundraising and revenue front, ending 2010 with nearly $7.8 million in gifts, grants and revenues either in hand or pledged through 2012, according to figures provided to paidContent by CEO and Editor in Chief Evan Smith earlier this year. As important, major gifts and grants accounted for just 51 percent of the $1.8 million and change the Tribune actually brought in during 2010. The rest came from membership, 11 percent; corporate underwriting, 17 percent; and events and specialty publications, 21 percent.

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This money, though, is earmarked to take advantage of their tech strengths without adding additional cost. Last year, when Knight convened news startups at SXSW Interactive, many shared a need for an easy-to-implement, flexible and low-cost publishing platform. Knight’s John Bracken says the foundation wants them to be “technologically nimble.”  Brian Kelley and Higinio Maycotte, respectively CTOs of the Bay Citizen and the Texas Tribune, will manage the collaboration. The open-source platform they envision will:

—Manage an integrated library of text, video and audio files;
—Maximize search engine optimization by improving the way articles are linked, aggregated and tagged;
—Integrate sites with social networks like Facebook and Twitter as well as bloggers;
—Provide membership tools and integration with ad networks to help with new revenue streams.


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