Seattle’s online news outlets shift, again

Shea Anderson / June 19, 2012

Anyone wondering just how tricky it is to be in the online news delivery service need look no further than the travails of Pubicola, the Seattle-based website devoted to Seattle and Washington state political news.

After shutting down, the duo who does most of the daily work for the site migrated to a temporary home at Crosscut, the Northwest news-and-opinion source.

The relationship was well-intentioned but short-lived. The two writers for Publicola soon left Crosscut, amiably, and shortly thereafter announced they were to resume publication under the aegis of SeattleMet’s publications. It wouldn’t seem like a natural fit for a publisher of glossy magazines, but Seattle Met editor in chief Katherine Koberg said, “their commitment to original reporting and healthy civic debate will deepen our understanding of how the city works and uphold Seattle Met’s promise to be an indispensable source of news, culture, and lifestyle coverage for the city both online and offline,” says Koberg.

Not that there’s any connectivity here, but Crosscut soon had some news of its own, although quite as positive. After some hunting for funding, the nonprofit news organization announced it had approached “a fiscal cliff” and would be scaling back operations. All this while the organization attempts to hand leadership and fundraising duties off from its founder, David Brewster.

There still isn’t a magical model for online-only news; just ask anybody working for the Seattle PI, the news organization formerly known as a newspaper. The business model for online newsgathering is still an elusive creature. Even CNBC is still struggling to figure out the “killer app” by partnering with Yahoo.

The market is there. According to Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism, online news readership grew 8.5 percent in 2010.

But getting readers — and those who pay for the writers — to join together remains the challenge.