I started OwnLocal in 2010 by applying to Y Combinator to “fix news”, got in, raised about $6.5mm, and moved to Austin to save the newspaper industry.

Today OwnLocal works with 3,500 local newspapers all around the world helping them make money, we’re profitable, and growing, but it’s not enough.

Before OwnLocal I had worked in newspapers for 15 years, and now my job puts me in front of a lot of media executives talking about the problems the industry is facing. Since we started, every year has been the worst year for the newspaper industry in the United States:

  • Newsrooms have declined from 60,770 to 39,210 employees in 2017
  • Paid circulation has decreased from 45.6mm to 34.6mm
  • Advertising revenues have dropped from $27B to $18.3B

And while online revenue has increased from $2.7B to $4.28B, newspaper’s total share of digital revenue has decreased from 7% to 4%

But now there’s something even worse than the decline happening — with misinformation spreading, fewer people are trusting news organizations, eroding the last asset that media has: their trust.

The failing business model of print journalism has resulted in fewer journalists than ever, in a time where there is more information to verify and scrutinize.

This is not just the greatest threat to newspapers, this is the greatest threat to freedom.

OwnLocal makes our newspaper partners about $150mm per year and while it’s not enough to save the industry, there’s more that we can do.

That’s why I started working with a new group of people on a project we call Bitpress: an open protocol for tracking the credibility of news.

Through Bitpress, we are tracking the largest news dataset ever collected, and have yet to release our findings.

The news cycle produces about 40k articles per day, and we find that only 9–10 articles contain actual misinformation. The majority of offenders are not spreading disinformation intentionally, but simply overreaching in their claims.

While the negative effects of misinformation are well documented, recent research from the Knight Foundation, Gallup, Yale and Northwestern show that misunderstanding real news is far more damaging than the effects of “fake news.”

With too much information being created today, six out of 10 Americans only read headlines before forming and sharing their opinions.

At SXSW 2019, paired with current research, I’d like to use my talk to show our never-before released data about misinformation and what we can do to become a better, more informed, society.

For the sake of freedom, please do me a favor and vote and comment on my SXSW PanelPicker® Submission?

Vote now!

Thanks to Bitpress, Eric Oetker, and Jacqueline Reynolds.