MinnPost.com Homepage

As a weary web traveler, Techlife’s journey is to uncover the small stuff and review the larger stuff, but how about the things in between. MinnPost is rare gem, a non-profit web startup with a local focus that is ready to expand past their roots. I recently had a chance to sit down with Joel Kramer, editor and founder of MinnPost.com. Joel and his band of writers, akin to Robin Hood and his band of merry men, are forming the next wave of journalism. No filters, they are the company. They believe in bringing good journalism to the reader without corporate oversight.

This unfiltered experience has the feel of a well written newspaper but the flavor Techlife readers will enjoy. Their roster of experienced writers might not be globally known, or even nationally known, but their local flavor of delivering quality reporting to Minnesotans gives them credibility in their local community. As a syndicated columnist who covers technology and life, maybe Joel will consider adding another budding journalist to his crew. Joel’s balance of digitizing the newspaper is something many publishers around the country are watching closely.

Techlife: What is MinnPost.com?

Joel Kramer: MinnPost.com is a high-quality news site for news-intensive people who care about Minnesota . We publish ambitious stories and shorter posts five days a week. The work is done by top-notch professional journalists, many of them with decades of experience.

TL: You are a non-profit. Why the .com instead of the .org?

JK: Many nonprofits use .com — to many people, the .org tends to connote a site that’s about the organization and its work, and our site is a product (or maybe it’s a service) for the public.

TL: Why would someone from outside of Minnesota read MinnPost.com?

JK: Three reasons: (1) Minnesota connections. You used to live in Minnesota, or you have relatives here, or do business here. (2) You like the stories and posts we do that are about national and international subjects. And (3) You care about the future of journalism, you want to watch our innovative model unfold, and maybe you want to support our commitment to high-quality journalism by building up our traffic.

TL: Have you considered going national or international with your concept, as there are journalists everywhere who might find your work and mission worthwhile?

JK: We’re up to our eyeballs right now trying to make MinnPost a big success in one market.

TL: Would you think a localized version for each city/urban area makes sense or could there be a national/single umbrella site?

JK: Haven’t had time to think about it much. But my focus is on creating a sustainable business model to provide high-quality journalism at the metro/state level. The issues involved in journalism for a national audience are different.

TL: What’s the best story you have that would not appear in a mainstream publication?

JK: Our major news stories could appear in mainstream newspapers; it’s just that mainstream newspapers are shrinking their staffs so much that they can’t do as many of those strong stories as they used to. Our posts and our MinnPost.World daily essays might not get published in the dailies, because they blend reporting, analysis and commentary in a way that makes a lot of editors and some readers uncomfortable.

TL: What size staff do you think is optimal?

JK: Way more than we have now. There are a lot of great stories out there. As we raise more money, we’ll reinvest in more journalism; there are no stockholders who need to get theirs.

TL: What advice would you give to someone who blogs, videoblogs or podcasts today? What about to journalists?

JK: To bloggers: Don’t get so wrapped up in commentary that you forget the value of old-fashioned reporting. To journalists: don’t give up believing in the power of great journalism. If you can’t find an employer willing to pay you to do it, create a blog that’s based on serious reporting and do it yourself.

TL: What tools do you use to allow the writers and editors to submit, work on, store and publish stories? How about for ad management? Do you have any other electronic or other tools that round out your platform, including billing or accounts payable? My readers like know how people run the business side of things and how publishers like you do your work.

JK: Writers and story editors work in Word, and the Web editor places content in a proprietary content management system customized for us by Clockwork, a Minneapolis firm. We also use a Flash video player. Ads are served by OAS. MinnPost in Print is created with In-Design. We use Quickbooks for accounting, and ADP for payroll.

TL: What do you use to create your printed version?

JK: We use In-Design. MinnPost in Print consists of eight 8.5 x 11 pages, designed in newspaper format. We print 2,000 copies and distribute them at selected locations with high traffic over the lunch hour, and we encourage others to print their own by downloading our daily PDF.

TL: Your printed version exists to bridge the gap between readers who might not get the digital version yet. How long will you continue to serve that market?

JK: We’ll serve that market as long as it’s financially viable to do so. Our goal is to get establishments with lunch-hour traffic (such as coffee shops, clubs, employee cafeterias, etc.) to print their own. If we can get a lot of places to do that, MinnPost in Print could be break-even or better, based on advertising sales.

TL: What other jobs do some of the journalists hold, since this can’t be their day job?

JK: Almost all of them are free-lance journalists. A handful have various day jobs.

TL: On your site you mention you are grandfather, what do you think your grandchild will do to get the news 10 years from now?

JK: She’ll only be 11, so if she’s interested in news, that will be great. My guess is that she’ll have a bewildering range of choices, ranging from word piped into her ears all the way to something that looks like a newspaper you can roll up and carry but gets refreshed at the press of a button. Or whatever.

Techlife believes in the journalism model. While that might sound self-serving as a syndicated columnist, realize journalism is all about quality writing and reporting to help others learn. Syndication is just about distribution to a wider audience. Do you think that there is a problem with a non-profit newspaper? Would you like to see one in your area? How much would you donate a year to them? Let us know in the comments.