Former INDenver Times managing editor Steve Foster on the new Rocky Mountain Independent project
The earlier blog headlined "INDenver Times Renegades Plan Rocky Mountain Independent" notes the participation in the online-magazine project of Steve Foster, once INDT's managing editor. Earlier today, Foster, who joins INDT vets David Milstead, Cindy House and John B. Moore at RMI, provided some additional details about the planned service, and makes it clear that a summertime debut won't be put off if preliminary goals aren't met.
"We will have enough money to launch one way or another," Foster says. "It's not a go or no-go based on whether we get enough members. We will go."
Foster doesn't sugarcoat the factors that prevented INDenver Times from taking off in the way Kevin Preblud and other backers had hoped. "We joined forces with them around a specific concept, a specific business model involving a fairly large staff for a startup and an aggressive subscription model," he notes. "That didn't materialize." However, he goes on, "the Rocky Mountain Independent is an attempt to realize some of the same goals as far as coverage. The key for us is orginal content and original reporting. We don't want to be focusing on aggregating news."
Nonetheless, Foster acknowledges that RMI won't have nearly as much fulltime manpower as was originally envisioned for INDenver Times. Rather than thirty to thirty-five employees, there'll probably be ten to twelve, with contributions from somewhere in the range of 25 freelancers, many of whom were on the original INDT roster. At this point, Foster isn't sure who'll be on staff and who won't, but he knows that INDT types such as Kevin Flynn, Alex Neth and Chris Tomasson want to be part of the project in some capacity.
There's also a plan to partner with other websites in order to share content, cross-promote and drive traffic. As an example, Foster cites InsideTheRockies.com, a Colorado Rockies-centric address in which he partners with former Rocky Mountain News scribes Tracy Ringolsby and Jack Etkin. And there'll also be sharing with IWantMyRocky.com, a site that went live shortly after the Rocky was put up for sale by its owner, E.W. Scripps, last December. This precursor to INDT will be revived in the coming months by another ex-Rocky journalist, Kim Humphreys, with an eye toward focusing on what's happening in today's newspaper business and other media matters, Foster says. The site will also provide a way for onetime Rocky employees to stay in touch with each other, and give readers a way to reach out as well.
During a late April conversation about future prospects, Milstead mentioned that he and Foster would be looking for investors to bankroll a new venture -- and the group is still looking. For now, though, some of the participants will be offering their own money or time in return for an ownership stake in what develops. Fulltimers will work without pay for the first three months after the site's bow, but Foster emphasizes that freelance writers and photographers who contribute will receive compensation for their efforts from the beginning.
In terms of revenue, Foster says memberships -- he likes the term better than "subscriptions" -- will be part of the business plan. "We still believe the industry is going toward that model," he says. "But we're not going to lock down the content on the site. Instead, we're going to provide special access and special benefits for people who want to become members." Advertising will have its place as well, and he wants to find personnel or perhaps a partnering firm to take on that challenge in the coming weeks.
Despite what happened with INDT, Foster expresses optimism about RMI. "INDenver Times was ambitious, and I'm sorry that it didn't launch the way we had anticipated," he concedes. "But it was an educational process, and we don't approach this in a dispirited way -- because what we're proposing is much closer to what we had conceived of as a group when we were still with the Rocky, and when we were worried that the Rocky might ultimately fold. We didn't want to quit doing our jobs, we didn't want to quit reporting, but Scripps decided to quit us. So we had to come up with a way of bringing everyone together and finding strength in numbers. And that's what we're doing now."