Taking News Forth

Today we soft launch Forth, presenting our original reporting in a new format with the look and feel of social media.

Taking News Forth

Today is an exciting day for us at Nillium; we’re excited to launch our first series of original reporting -- a Q&A with the candidates for the Democratic nomination for NYC’s City Council District 5 -- in our threaded format.

Forth is a news platform geared toward 18- to 34-year olds with a focus on local and the look and feel of social media.

We have high hopes.

We know that more than half of Americans self-report getting at least some of their news from social media, even though more than half of Americans expect news on social media to be “largely inaccurate.” And, of course, the appetite for news on social media is higher among younger adults, presumably because of their lack of brand loyalty across legacy media (and they are less likely to subscribe to a local newspaper or watch TV news).

So we are left with a paradox: why consume news on a platform that you do not trust?

The answer lies in the medium.

The social media experience has a lot going for it. It keeps things concise.  It aggregates a bunch of verticals and interests into one place; you can get a good overview with just a few swipes down on your phone. And Twitter-like threads can offer more context or detail to those interested.

But social media can also be highly detrimental to journalism. Since publishers can only monetize their reporting once someone has clicked through to their sites, we see clickbait headlines -- not to mention a deluge of ads once on their site, trying to financially make the most of the probably short visit. And since news organizations know that their readers are increasingly not visiting their home pages -- coming in exclusively through news feeds and aggregators -- they stoop to lowest-common denominator coverage, which they know will trend.

The biggest casualty of social’s dominance for journalism might very well be local news. Almost by definition, it does not trend since it appeals to a narrow audience. Decreasing ad revenue means consolidation and less coverage of local issues; smaller newsrooms cannot lean on economies of scale like the bigger, national ones.  Of course, that does not mean that people do not want to know what’s going around them, even if they don’t use the phrase “local news.”

Apps like Nextdoor and Citizen drive incredible engagement, despite their own issues. And local issues are often the ones that have the biggest impact on an individual’s day-to-day life. We need to save it.

Which brings us back to Forth.

Our first series --  a Q&A with the candidates for the Democratic nomination for NYC’s City Council District 5 -- is very local, intended for our home neighborhood of Manhattan’s Upper East Side.  So local, in fact, we found very little coverage even in the NYC media.  And it’s presented in our threaded format, mimicking the look and feel of social media.  

As we grow, you will find local and national verticals in one place.  Only journalists can post, and they will be held to our Editorial Policy, which we hope will further engender trust.  We’ve changed the incentives -- assignment based pay for independent, gig reporters; revenue share for partner newsrooms - to nurture good journalism, even if an individual thread never goes viral.

This is still just a soft launch; we encourage you to sign up for our waiting list, to be the first to know when our app is up and running. Though we are putting ourselves out there -- bringing information which we think is important to our neighbors in an accessible format -- and hope that this small experiment can serve as a model for journalism in the future.

Let’s Go Forth.

Please sign up for our waiting list.  If you are an independent reporter interested in working with us, we’d love to hear from you. And if you represent a newsroom that would like to partner with us, please email.