I’m pleased to announce that my newest venture production is beginning to unstealth. It’s called The Daily Dot and it promises to be “the hometown newspaper of the Web ” — the community newspaper for Web.
The story of The Daily Dot began several years ago when I was thinking about where the Web was headed. At the time I was thinking a lot about the future of emerging online communities such as Digg, Facebook, the early days of Twitter, and even my own Twine.com — as well as about the growth of fully immersive games and virtual worlds like World of Warcraft and Second Life. I realized that these communities really were virtual places, and some of them literally even contained the equivalent of towns, leagues, guilds, nations.
But when I looked at how the media was covering the Web at the time, I saw a huge gap. Coverage broke out into two areas: stories aimed at an industry audience (TechCrunch, ReadWriteWeb, GigaOm, Venturebeat, Techmeme) and coverage aimed at an early-adopter tech audience (Wired, Engadget, Slashdot, Boing Boing). But collectively, these audiences made up only a small slice of the overall Web audience pie.
Even more notable was that nobody was covering online communities like places — the way that newspapers cover nations, cities and towns. There were no local reporters, embedded reporters, no stringers or correspondents in various online communities. In short, traditional media was covering the Web like a technology, not like a place.
Where was the coverage for the majority of the audience? The mainstream consumers who spent the better part of every day in this new place we call the Web? Where was the coverage of what was happening in the communities on the Web? The stories about the people on the Web? The stories for the people who used the Web?
Curiously, when I dug into this, I found that the mainstream was receiving scattered attention, in the form of only a few human interest or business articles per week in the major national media outlets (New York Times, Wall Street Journal, CBS, NBC, ABC). Mostly these articles were either curiosities or they were about big financial deals around hot companies. They too failed to address the Web as a place.
While the Internet industry audience was being deluged with thousands of geeky articles and blog posts every day, the mainstream audience was for the most part being ignored by the media. My mainstream audience member friends confirmed this – they had no clue at all about what was really going on online – even around topics they cared about like brands, celebrities, music, major privacy issues that would affect them, the birth and death of major online services, new social trends and memes, new legislation, cybercrime. The small amount of this news they were aware of, reached them weeks after it was fresh, when the major outlets finally covered it.
I realized that here was an opportunity – in fact a need – for a newspaper that covered news about the Web for the people who use the Web — mainstream people. A newspaper by and for the people of the Web (in other words, all of us). A newspaper that would cover the Web like a place and as a community. In further discussions about this concept, my wife, Kimberly Rubin, came up with the perfect name, “The Daily Dot” and I went about buying the domain name.
The idea gestated and grew. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Finally, I decided this was a good enough idea to actively produce it in my new “venture production studio” — And so with that in mind I began looking for the right CEO and co-founders to produce the venture around.
As fate would have it, I had been introduced to Nicholas White through my longtime friend and PR guru, Josh Jones-Dilworth. Nick and I had been circling for a while. He had this “young Richard Branson” vibe — which everyone comments on after they meet him. I knew he was going to be someone important but I wasn’t sure exactly in what way. Then it hit me.
Nick grew up in a newspaper family, working in the print newspaper biz. For over a century his family has been running community newspapers; Today they own 22 newspapers and radio stations. Like me and Josh, Nick had been thinking about the same problem — how to evolve community news reporting for the new millennium, but from the perspective of the newspaper business.
Nick was thinking about how to save the newspaper business — thoughts which he has elaborated on this week in a new article about how he hopes to save the newspaper business by leaving it. As we spoke about the Daily Dot and his own ideas, I realized Nick had both the pedigree and the passion to build what I had envisioned. Nick was the perfect CEO for the Daily Dot. And so we invited him to co-found the venture.
With Nick’s experience at the helm, we are already making great progress. An example of this is last week’s announcement that the widely-followed editor, Owen Thomas, has left his position as executive editor at Venturebeat (a terrific publication that I read every day), to join Nick and the team as founding editor of the Daily Dot. And around Nick and Owen we are already growing a team of really awesome editors, writers, designers, coders, marketers and investors. It’s really starting to take shape, rapidly.
Owen in particular brings a strong editorial background, and is already helping to focus our strategy. We were all impressed by Owen’s incredible network of connections to the movers and shakers of the Web, as well as to the users of the Web — and also with his knowledge of all things media, pop culture, gossip, fashion, design, entertainment and more. He really understands what people use the Web for, and he’s got a great nose for news. In short he’s got exactly the right mix to head up the Daily Dot’s editorial strategy.
As Owen explains it, The Daily Dot, is going to cover the Web in a new way: It’s about people. We’re going to cover the Web not just as a technology or an industry, but as a community — actually a community of communities — spread across a virtual landscape of online places. Some of these communities, like Facebook, are even larger than physical nations, and contain communities within them that are larger than many cities. Others, like World of Warcraft, are complex parallel worlds complete with warring factions and their own economies.
And there are many other vibrant communities on the Web: Youtube, Etsy, Second Life, 4Chan, the Word Press blogging community, Tumblr, Reddit, and literally millions of micro communities around vertical interests. These communities have people in them — yes actual people, not just technologies and venture capitalists! And these people have stories, stories we want to know about. And so do the people who participate in them. But who is telling those stories?
Imagine a nation or city without its own daily newspaper — how would people know what’s going on, what would hold it together, would it even feel like one nation or city at all? A newspaper is a critical enabling catalyst that transforms a crowd into a community. It gives people news, but also a sense of place, a sense of belonging, a sense of community. It tells the story of the place, it holds the record of the place. On a deeper level, a newspaper provides a mirror of the whole back to the parts, enabling an essential feedback loop. In short, newspapers are the lifeblood of communities.
The Web today is like that nation or city without a newspaper. It’s missing something essential – the one key catalyst that will transform it from a crowd into an actual community. By providing the Web with its own newspaper, The Daily Dot will make the Web feel more human, more connected, and more cohesive. And this is really important.
The Daily Dot aims to be the community newspaper for the Web as a whole, as well as for each of the communities within it. And by doing this, we may just end up play a key role in the life of the Web. But that’s the just the beginning: We may also become the first truly global newspaper; the newspaper with the largest daily readership on the planet. After all, what newspaper today has 6 billion daily readers?
There is no geographic print newspaper audience that large. But The Daily Dot is not limited by geography; it has a real chance at achieving a truly global readership by covering the one community that everyone on this planet has in common: The Web. It’s the first newspaper that everyone may actually read every day.
The Daily Dot is still young – in fact we haven’t really even launched it yet. And as we launch it’s going to be a work in progress: We’ll be starting with a series of experiments, a newsletter, and some explorations of new approaches for involving the community in making its own news, and then we’ll be launching a major new site — currently in private beta.
Meanwhile, we’re hiring writers and editors, so if you share our passion for this mission (and you’re awesome) definitely apply. We look forward to hearing your stories.