All posts by Jeff

Entrepreneurial journalism

Today I flipped the switch and launched Edmonton Quotient into the Internet. It may not be, technically, my first business but it’s certainly the first one I’ve approached that way from the start.

The last few years I’ve called myself a “sometimes journalist” or said that I worked in media jobs that were journalism-adjacent. I think those are both accurate descriptions of my work at Capital Ideas and Accessible Media. Since I’ll still be working on a lot of the content for EQ, I think my new attempt at a job title would be journalist-entrepreneur or “entrepreneurial journalist”.

I hope the content and stories that are to be produced for Edmonton Quotient are good. I hope they help fill the gap of shrinking newsrooms cut again and again by profit-driven corporations. And I most hope they inform Edmontonians and activate people to take part in the many issues and challenges our city faces.

Strange as it may seem, I’m not truly worried about the content side of things. There are a lot of great journalists in Edmonton that can write and produce for EQ. It’s coming up with money for them to do this that will be my real work. That’s where the entrepreneurial aspects come into play.

So many headlines remind us how media industries are failing. The question, then, is how I’m going to build a successful, sustainable media company here in Edmonton. (This is where I tell you where to send the giant novelty cheques.)

I’m making a few guesses about how to do this. First, find as many streams of revenue as possible. I’ve got three or four in mind right out of the gate, but I’ve still got to be open to new opportunities as they arrive, especially if a pivot makes business sense (while retaining integrity around the journalism).

Second, I think local businesses have a role to play in local media. Along with cuts to newsrooms, you see local ad space disappearing on local media websites. It’s all Google boxes and ad networks. I think there is something to be said for visiting a local website and knowing that all of the ads and sponsors you see are from businesses you can walk into today.

Local website, not-so-local advertising.
Local website, not-so-local advertising.

Edmonton Quotient will have local news, local information and local advertising. If you’re not an Edmonton (or area) business, I don’t want your money and I don’t want your ads on the site. Part of the “conversation” between content and audience needs to include local businesses that are interested in finding new customers. I’m hoping this curation of advertising gives people a reason to pay attention to ads and sponsors they see on EQ content.

I suppose a smaller bet I’m making is that I don’t need to pull in millions of dollars each month. That kind of massive media model is teetering and I think smaller, local and niche media is where things are going and where success will be found.

Whatever happens, I hope you’ll come along for the ride.

(The easiest way to keep updated is to sign up for EQ’s newsletter. I’ll do all the work for you!)

Edmonton’s New Media Outlet

I’m starting a new Edmonton magazine that will focus on local news, issues and discussions about our city. It’s called Edmonton Quotient (or, EQ for short) and I hope you’ll sign up today to be the first to know when it officially launches.

I’m choosing today to announce Edmonton Quotient because it was one year ago – January 19, 2016 – that Edmonton’s local news coverage took a very public and very difficult hit when Postmedia combined the newsrooms of the Edmonton Journal and Edmonton Sun and laid off more than 30 people (newsrooms in Calgary, Vancouver and Ottawa were also combined with a second paper also owned by Postmedia). More people left soon after that, not interested in working in a gutted newsroom or simply leaving before the next cuts came (which they did, before the end of 2016 as Postmedia looked to slash 20% of its staffing costs).

These cuts were by no means the largest or deepest to hit Edmonton news, as all outlets have laid people off and reduced staff in the last decade, as digital changes left the old business models flailing. I also doubt we’ve seen the end of such decisions for local affiliates of Postmedia, Bell, Rogers, Shaw and possibly even CBC (though that one remains tied to government decisions until such time it’s out of the advertising world).

The cuts did get a lot of attention though, as newspapers remain the primary driver of enterprise and original journalism in most cities (and the former editor-in-chief grabbed attention too). So it means fewer feature stories in Edmonton, less beat coverage at City Hall or the Alberta Legislature (or in health, education, neighbourhood issues, the court system, etc.) and more duplication of the same stories everyone is covering at the same news conferences and daily events.

I’m not saying that Edmonton Quotient will fill all the gaps left by last year’s cuts at Postmedia, or years of cuts at other outlets (including losing one alt-weekly newspaper, SEE Magazine, and the City-TV newsroom). In fact, I don’t necessarily think the old newsroom models are the best use of resources, especially with thinned-out staff numbers. The inability to truly pivot from some of those models will be a continued problem for those struggling corporations with local banners (on both the journalism and business side).

I want Edmonton Quotient to tell some local stories, dig into some local concerns, offer people actions they can take on issues they feel are important, provide some media literacy and pay journalists a decent fee for their work (no working for “exposure“). No news outlet can cover everything well, and keeping that in mind we’ll pick and choose what we can bring new information and insights to. I hope you’ll be part of the conversation.

Another goal I have for the content is to include new and minority voices in the coverage and conversations. I’m a straight, white male living a fairly privileged middle class life. My view of the world, and those of some of my colleagues in a white (male) media cannot be the centre of EQ’s journalism. Please put me in touch with new journalists and as many women, Indigenous and people of colour writers, journalists and thinkers who could work on stories and be guests on podcasts and at events.


Local business is also part of my vision for Edmonton Quotient. I believe there’s value in being able to let local folks know about your business, and there will be advertising and sponsorship opportunities with EQ.

For the business owner choosing us, ads will be highly visible, limited to a small number of Edmonton businesses and reasonably priced. And we won’t pressure you to spend more money on longer campaigns – if advertising with EQ isn’t meeting your goals we hope you spend your money elsewhere (and if we know where that could be, we’ll point you in that direction). We see this as a relationship between two Edmonton businesses helping each other.

For the audience, the ads will be limited in number, for local businesses only – places you could walk into today – and we hope that curation will make them a valuable and important part of your time spent with Edmonton Quotient. I know I love finding out about great new places to spend my time and money here in Edmonton. This will not become a cluttered website of ad boxes, page takeovers and pop-ups. (And no programmatic ad networks that compromise your Internet privacy and follow you from site to site.) Advertising should be smart, informative and even helpful to its audience.

In short, Edmonton Quotient will be a place to discuss important Edmonton issues, see some interesting local and long-form journalism (which ideally introduces you to new voices and points of view) and hopefully teach us all a new thing or two about this city we call home.

Oh, and no pop-ups. Ever.

The next iteration

Here I am moderating a panel last December with business owners Jennifer Grimm (Lux Beauty Boutique), Susie Sykes (Catapult Marketing) and Sohail "Zee" Zaidi (Remedy Cafe). Photo: Topher Seguin
Moderating a panel last year with business owners Jennifer Grimm (Lux Beauty Boutique), Susie Sykes (Catapult Marketing) and Sohail “Zee” Zaidi (Remedy Cafe). Photo: Topher Seguin

I’m going to be celebrating this Christmas as a former employee of Capital Ideas and Postmedia. You may have heard, there are just a few changes happening at this company (and most large media organizations). I am not one of the lucky ones getting a retention bonus during the staffing changes. I’m sure I’ll have more thoughts on media and its importance to community soon but, for now, it’s just time to say goodbye.

I’ll be missing regular conversations with Edmonton business owners (and my trips to Calgary to meet with even more Alberta entrepreneurs!). These are people who are truly trying to “make something Edmonton” and building our community in many ways. Edmonton’s got a lot going on, and I’m continually surprised by the ideas and energy of people starting and running their own businesses here (and their willingness to share!). I hope to have helped put a couple of them on your radar these last two years, and I know I’ve learned about a lot of great shops and agencies to support (definitely a perk of working at Capital Ideas). It definitely rekindled that love of local I found while working at the edmontonian a little ways back.

The more things change, the more they stay the same though, and it’s true in the case of Capital Ideas, which will remain in the capable hands of our community managers Elise Campbell, in Edmonton, and Kim Smith, in Calgary. If you’ve been to one of our panel events, you’ve seen them in action and you’ll see them as the continuing faces of Capital Ideas in Alberta, where entrepreneurs get to share what they’ve learned along the way in an effort to make all businesses just a little bit better.

(Shout-outs to everyone who I can think of off the top of my head who has also helped build the Capital Ideas community: Vickie Laliotis, Sam Brooks, Baillie Scheetz, Michelle LePage, Jane Marshall, Kelly Zenkewich and…others I’m sure to be forgetting.)

It's always a packed house at Capital Ideas! photo: Jenn Pierce
It’s always a packed house at Capital Ideas! photo: Jenn Pierce

I joined Capital Ideas when I was looking for a new challenge, and I was also excited for an opportunity to work with a couple of the smartest people I know, Karen Unland and Brittney Le Blanc. They were the originators of Capital Ideas here in Edmonton, launching a startup within Canada’s largest newspaper chain. They also made something Edmonton (which then made something Calgary) and set the stage for the success Capital Ideas has had going on five years.

If you’re in Edmonton, I recommend you join Capital Ideas to share your own advice with other entrepreneurs and attend the panel events. In Calgary, you can join to do the same thing with thousands of business owners in your city.

Now I get to look forward to my next challenges (and finish my Christmas shopping). I’ll share my future plans soon, but for now I’d just like to thank every Capital Ideas member and entrepreneur I’ve crossed paths with, and all the business supporters at organizations like Business LinkAlberta Women Entrepreneurs and ATB Business for reminding me why Edmonton is such a fantastic place to live and Alberta is the best place to build your idea.

Alright, let's be honest. I lost my job in a fight with that robot. photo: Jenn Pierce
Alright, let’s be honest. I lost my job in a fight with that robot. photo: Jenn Pierce

 

Sugru To A New U

Following up on my post about toothpase as a camera lens-saver, here’s one about Sugru fixing our dishwashers.

Oh, and if you don’t know what Sugru is, let me tell you how great and excellent this weird to pronounce product is.

Sugru is a moldable glue that turns into a solid rubber after sitting for a few hours. And it has solved one of our most regular household annoyances; dishwasher wheels that won’t stay the F on.

We’ve got a GE dishwasher that’s about eight years old. Doing some Googling it appears GE has had some problems with their wheels staying put on the bottom rack. Certainly, in the great balance of problems in the world this is minor. But damn if it doesn’t annoy the crap out of you when opening and closing the thing. I would say every time we rolled out the bottom rack we had one of three options; all wheels would stay on, one wheel would come off, all wheels would come off (hilariously this would happen as we tried to fix one or two wheels, thus allowing all others to leap for freedom).

Sally remembered her brother using some kind of glue-y type thing from the Internet to fix things at one point and after a few searches we found Sugru. And our problem is solved.

If you have anything around the house that needs to be stuck more permanently to something else (or many other uses Sugru could have) I recommend you head to their website and order some Sugru right now. I’ll wait.

You ordered?

Did you get it in a fun colour?!

We got the white Sugru to blend in with the dishwasher.
We got the white Sugru to blend in with the dishwasher.

Anyway, Sugru explains everything pretty well on their site, but essentially you open the package, roll the little glue pad around and stick it to/on/around something. In our case it was around the clamp that holds the dishwasher wheels to the rack. 24 hours later the glue is a solid rubber that ain’t going nowhere. And, because it can withstand temperatures up to 180 degrees Celsius (and down to -50), it can do its thing in the dishwasher in the hottest of cycles.

We’ve still got a few sticks of Sugru left and I am actually kind of excited to see where we use it next. (It can keep for quite a while if you store it in the fridge.)

Alberta Election Playlist: Hope and Fear in 2015

It’s election day tomorrow! And after voting in the morning the best way to keep the election day vibe going is a good playlist.

I’m taking my cues from the campaigns, where the NDP have tried to offer Albertans a new kind of government (and certainly new period, as the PC Party has governed for 44 years) while the Tories have ramped up the fear-mongering (as have the Wildrose in the last days of the election, warning of the socialist takeover). Whatever happens it feels like something different is coming to Alberta on Tuesday.

So, I used hope and fear as inspiration, with some Alberta artists thrown in to keep it local.

Don’t forget to vote! And let me know what you’d put on your playlist.

Playlist: Alberta Election: Hope and Fear in 2015

Hope

The Times They Are A-Changin’ – Bob Dylan
Hope In Dirt City – Cadence Weapon
The Canadian Dream – Sam Roberts
Changes – David Bowie
Edmonton – The Rural Alberta Advantage
All Hell For A Basement – Big Sugar
Wake Up – Arcade Fire
A Change Would Do You Good – Sheryl Crow
Orange Crush – R.E.M.
No Champagne Socialist – The Arkells

Fear 

Like a Rolling Stone – Bob Dylan
Gettin’ Down On The Mountain – Corb Lund
Viva La Vida – Coldplay
All These Things That I’ve Done – The Killers
Scared – The Tragically Hip
Bad Moon Rising – Creedence Clearwater Rising
The Greatest – Cat Power
How You Like Me Now – The Heavy
Everybody’s Changing – Keane
Look Happy, It’s The End Of The World – Matthew Good Band

PC Party bonus track: Burn It To The Ground – Nickelback
Alberta Bonus track: The Dethbridge in Lethbridge – The Rural Alberta Advantage

Polling Place