Publisher, The Devil Strip
Chris Horne is Publisher of The Devil Strip, a publication focusing on the music, art and culture of Akron, Ohio. He is a 2018-2019 John S. Knight Journalism Fellow at Stanford University.
We did, last spring, a beta membership drive, so we have a group of about 150 people who on that NPR affiliate model, like ‘give out of the goodness of your heart’ kind of thing, and we had 150 people who did that. I shut that off. They’re to be grandfathered into what we’re doing next, but I realize it wasn’t going to grow the way we had designed it.
You get to vote on some big things. You don’t get to decide who the free agents are. You don’t get to decide the play calls on the field. But you have a say on some of these things and you get to feel a sense of literal ownership over the team. And that’s kind of what we’re going for here.
I’m getting into the nuts and bolts and things, but our hope is that will have four or five revenue streams developing over the next year. Advertising will remain one of them. I want to add business services to it, sort of consulting on storytelling or even content creation, where we can go in and help some small businesses figure out how to manage a Facebook page, how to do some of their own marketing, because you know ... some of them just won’t benefit from advertising with us. … And I hate taking their money if I know it’s not going to help them when there are other things they could do for less money and we can help them do that and it’d be less overhead for us. And whether the membership is more like a subscription and ownership as a separate thing or they’re the same thing. We’ll have to decide that over the summer. But that would be a revenue stream, turning the events into more profitable opportunities, whether that is as a driver for membership or it is public-facing stuff that actually we can hang sponsorship on, like Texas Tribune does.
The magazine is free. It will remain free. The website is free, will remain free. So instead of leveraging access to our content, we want to leverage access to community itself. … It’s selling the vision for a democratized form of American journalism.