One theme per week. One story per day, told in the medium best-suited for that story. Oh, and only about New York City.
No breaking news. No big headlines. No jam-packed news website front pages.
Sound like a dream job?
That’s the basic vision of Narratively, a new digital platform led by Noah Rosenberg, a 29 year-old journalist from Brooklyn. As a mix of text, images, graphics and interactives, the site is slated to launch later this month. Rosenberg and others on the team launched a Kickstarter campaign near the beginning of August to raise some startup cash and they’re about 80 percent of the way to the $50,000 funding goal with less than a week to go.
Rosenberg’s experiences working for CBS, revamping a local news website, founding a magazine, regularly freelancing for the New York Times, and completing a fellowship at The City University of New York’s Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism gave him the confidence and clout to conceive of and launch the digital platform.
I talked to Rosenberg about Narratively, New York, and meetups at beer gardens. Here are some nuggets from that conversation.
Rosenberg on Narratively, soiree-like editorial meetings,
and what makes him tick
When I wasn’t working, I was spending all my free time exploring New York and all of its hidden corners. So, I had been developing this idea for what would become Narratively for several years. At first, it was just a couple people and now we’ve grown to what we are now. Every week 30 to 40 of us meet get together informally over beer at a bar or at someone’s apartment and have these really fun, soiree-like editorial meetings.
What we’ve striven for in Narratively is to recreate a bit of that magazine experience, with really gorgeous layouts and images on each individual story but at the same time making use of those digital tools and platforms that are at our disposal. Really, we want to be able to tell stories in more ways than one. Just one theme a week. And we’re only producing one story a day, to allow each story to have the time and the impact it needs to really leave its mark.
Friday is reserved for experimentation. More of a behind the scenes day. We’ll curate the social conversation from that week. Or do a Q&A with an author. Or go behind-the-scenes with one of the characters from one of the stories. Kind of try to wrap up the conversation and bring the week full circle, before we move on to the next week.
The ideas are never a problem. Every week we have new contributors sit down with us and share their ideas and thoughts and every journalist in the city has a story or twelve in their back pocket that they’ve been wanting to tell for years, but maybe it’s not the best fit for a traditional media outlet, or maybe there’s not a news peg. We’re actually an outlet for people to have these story ideas and want to share or get their story out a little sooner.
It’s really heartwarming and uplifting to see that people beyond our own backyard in New York are excited about what we’re doing, not only because they can see it coming to their city, but also because new york is a type of magical place. On the one hand so well known and on the other so big and so unknown. I think people will really relate to that and we’ll give people a new perspective on life here in this city of 8 million people.
I’m really excited about working on the business model, too. Our goal was always to be able to subsidize really high quality and innovative reporting, and over the next couple weeks we’ll be looking to create relationships with potential sponsors for content, get some people on board to help us out with the events we want to produce, trying to really present this premium membership that we’ll be offering our audience. We’re trying to build Narratively from all sides of the equation.
I think we’re doing something really unique and interesting. And while our stories aren’t the type that are going to be on A1 of the New York Times, they’re still stories that are going to inform you nonetheless and inform your sensibility on what it means to a New Yorker. And later, when we expand, what it means to be someone from San Francisco or Chicago or Paris. We hope to bring this identity and this in-depth storytelling sensibility to other cities as well.
I love being around people. I think that’s one of the reasons why I gravitated toward journalism and storytelling. I really just love talking to people and hearing their stories. And then packaging them and making them accessible and engaging for other people.
Figuring out how to bring these stories to life — that’s what really makes me tick.
You can support Narratively on Kickstarter here.
Larry Buchanan is an illustrator, designer and columnist living in Brooklyn, NY. Some of his work lives here.