Bleak Dev

Learning milestone: Not getting into Round 1

Thank you everyone for supporting Meagan’s and my project proposal for the Knight Foundation’s NewsChallenge this past month.

The organization passed on our project, but we learned so much from the experience. Most importantly, we have been reaffirmed in our belief that a hardcore audience exists for such a project.

I can relate our goal more clearly now than ever before:

We want to create a platform for diehard fandoms and “cultural extremists” to read about people like themselves, play alternate-reality games, and build conversations/worlds around their obsessions.

In crafting the proposal, we forced ourselves to narrow our vision considerably from its original incarnation as a 108-page print mag with a website, social media site and ARG.

It was tough saying goodbye to a nicely designed print mag product, but the reality is no print magazine has raised money and lasted long enough to make money since before 2009. It may also be true that a sense of doom surrounds any project that calls itself a “magazine” or “publication,” even if it has the word “digital” or “web” in front of it.

Perhaps the terms “SaaS,” “crowdsourcing” and “cloud computing” could have been injected into our proposal to make it sexier, since our content and game engine would encompass some elements from each of these concepts.

However, I don’t think we have solidified the engine or the content production cycle for the project enough, and it seems wrong to slap on labels and throw around terms simply because they could have drawn more attention from the judges.

What we have wrought from this experience is a rubric that allows us to move away from limiting concepts such “magazine” and “publication” while retaining what we love most about those platforms.

And in doing so, I think we’re on the right track.