Indian Country politics and public policy

Commentary by Mark Trahant

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What’s next for Trahant Reports?

Let’s go right to the lede: I am exploring options about how to pay for my #NativeVote16 blog and my audio commentary for Native Voice One.

There are three options (that I can see). First: Take Trahant Reports offline and sell subscriptions. Second: A crowdfunding campaign, including underwriting content. Third: Partner with a media company.

Why do I need to do this? My “day” job is a 9-month gig, so I need to either find a job during the summer months or produce revenue from Trahant Reports. My business plan has been to balance my free product with paid speeches and occasional freelance projects.

A couple of weeks ago I thought I was set: I was going to go the subscription route. I still think that could produce revenue. But I have been asking people I respect for their thoughts and several have raised serious concerns. The biggest problem is not economic: It’s that by converting Trahant Reports to a subscription model, it undermines my pitch to get more people interested in participating and winning elections. I end up writing for a few, instead of as many people as possible. That concerns me more than the money. I have charted the growth in readership for the hashtag, #NativeVote16 and it’s been steady.

A crowdfunding campaign does not have the same editorial implications, but I have not been successful figuring out how to sell it. Last summer I gave it a shot and the results were mixed. It did help me get through the summer, but it wasn’t enough to do the kind of journalism I want to do. This summer I need to be at the conventions and in the field. And that means raising enough money to pay for travel. There is new data out on journalism crowdfunding projects and it turns out that travel is one of the key ingredients. On Kickstarter, for example, journalism projects now account for $6.3 million in pledges. And websites, like Trahant Reports, attracted the largest share, $1.89 million or 29 percent of the total, according to Pew Research. But individual projects brought in a far smaller share of funds than media organizations.

Media partnerships remain a possibility. But then that organization would have to come up with serious money (or we raise it together). That’s especially a possibility with Native Voice One. Right now all of my content can be used for free by any media or web site. And that produces a diverse audience.

Thanks for reading. I’d be interested in your take on this problem. I have some great stories planned for the next few months. — Mark

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What I do now.

Last year wrote more than 150 posts, topics ranging from introducing Native candidates running for office to a village’s quest for sovereignty in Alaska. Most of the stories were posted on trahantreports.com and then reposted by other media. This includes:  Indianz.com, posting more than 70 stories; Indian Country Today Media Network, 61 stories since last yearNativeNewsOnline.Net more than 40 stories; as well as New America Media, High Country News, Daily Yonder, Blue Nation Review, and Al Jazeera.

I have also produced for more than a year now a weekly audio commentary distributed via Native Voice One that’s available for tribal radio stations or accessed over the Internet. One option is to find an underwriter for the audio program and really concentrate on that (meaning less time for the posts). Right now the commentary is provided by me for free as a service.

I am particularly proud of my post (and idea) to create an American Indian tribal primary. I think it has real potential and I will keep working on it.

In addition to the conventions, I am building what could be the most exhaustive list of Native American candidates and elected officials. I have more than 80 names in my spread sheet. I will release that story after filing deadlines in June. It includes candidates for county commissions, city councils, and state legislatures. This cycle we may have as many as a dozen Native Americans running for Congress. If even a few are elected, we will significantly increase the 0.37 representation in the Congress now.

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