Five years ago this week, Issue Media Group started its first weekly e-zine, Model D, in Detroit to tell the forward-looking stories of passionate changemakers surrounded by bad news. From there it was PopCity in Pittsburgh and into Cincinnati with SoapBox. So the story goes, for this bootstrapped startup that leaped through the window of opportunity into the front lines of a new media scene.
Last months launch of Twin Cities-based The Line marks the 16th (and westernmost) addition to their portfolio of digital media properties.
Highly concentrated in Michigan, IMG’s footprint now stretches as far North as Toronto, Tampa to the South and Baltimore to the East. “If there’s any thought behind the direction of this company, it’s to enter markets that are looking to tell their stories in a more authentic way but struggling with information gaps” says Co founder Brian Boyle regarding IMG’s outlook.
With a localized, “micro reporting” approach to content generation, IMG is positioned as the Midwest’s answer to the Gothamist or Curbed network of blogs. Add in some Xconomy style business coverage, mix thoroughly with the design/architecture of Dwell and you’ve got an idea of where The Line aims to be.
Managing Editor Jon Spayde says The Line’s overarching theme “will read like a chronicle of creativity in the new economy. We look at fresh ideas and innovative people in areas like: entrepreneurship, design and placemaking-the development of neighborhoods. It’s a culture of really sharp and cool people within the cities while showing interactions from one sector to another. It’s very important for me to balance the soft and hard (enterprise vs. art/design).” Spayde, former Editor of Utne Reader, goes on to describe narratives unique to our environment, including complex issues around regionalism, cooperation between cities, the proposed IQ Corridor, and neighborhood planning initiatives.
If there’s one major advantage this newcomer is consciously leveraging, it’s the talent that legacy media is leaving behind. With networked employment arrangements, Spayde points to the quality of the team he’s assembled based on the increasing talent pool of un-and underemployed freelancers. The Line’s contracted Innovation and Jobs editor (and entrepreneur in his own right) Dan Haugen is understandably excited about this new opportunity to apply his reportorial background towards such a fresh and progressive organization-one which he intends to commit a healthy chunk (25%) of his time towards. “I’m coming across a lot of intersections in my reporting on green tech, neighborhoods, and growth companies…to me, The Line represents the overlap of multiple spaces I’ve been covering for some time now.”
Multiple indeed. With over 30 neighborhoods listed and 14 areas of “focus” ranging from arts and culture to transit oriented development, demonstrating both timelyness and proficiency in any one area could prove the greatest challenge for The Line, and conversely, quite rewarding if successfully accomplished. While expansion is never a true indicator of real financial growth, Mr. Boyle reports that some five years later, properties like ModelD and PopCity are in the area of 100k visitors per month, growing at a clip of 12-20% per year.
Mr. Boyle says the each respective publication is financially supported by “a broad cross-section of local public and private ‘partners’ such as economic development agencies, tourism groups, higher education orgs and foundational communities,” comparing it to the the spirit of NPR and Kauffmann, “whereas Kauffmann underwrites a media component [NPR] around an issue that is important to them [entrepreneurialism]…Kauffmann doesn’t tell them what to write but they provide NPR with resources to ensure that content that matters to them is covered.”