Precisely seven years ago this month, the Talbot Spy began its life as an online news source for a community I had fallen in love with as an undergraduate at Washington College in 1974. The premise was simple enough. By using the extraordinary tools that the internet provided, such as the ability to use multimedia, easy reader access, and relatively low cost start up, the Spy could be a powerful and useful complement to a legacy newspaper of record and engage more residents in the daily affairs, the arts and culture of their region.
The business plan was also just as simple. Generate enough revenue to cover these costs and provide modest stipends for the Spy’s editors and writers. There was no vision for media domination or commercializing the “product” to monetize investment. The payback would come with a community well informed and respectful of diverse opinion.
Nor was there any guarantee of success. While I had known Talbot County relatively well, it was hard to predict if this was a value-added proposition for a community that prided itself on not being an early adapter to most things.
Seven years later, the Talbot Spy has 15,000 readers a month reading it on average five times a month. It has attracted over 200 sponsors and has been able to pay its editors and writers the small stipends they were promised.
More importantly, the Spy has been able to remain true to its mission and aspirations. Over 2,000 educational video programs have been produced, over 10,000 original content articles or local opinion pieces have been published, and 15,000 vetted reader comments have been posted.
With the increased awareness that the Spy was indeed a community asset worthy of philanthropic support, I made arrangements with the Mid-Shore Community Foundation to become the Spy’s fiscal partner, allowing us to receive funding from private foundations as a non-profit entity starting in 2013.
All of these ingredients have worked together to keep the Spy afloat over these years, but the reality is that we, like every nonprofit organization, must seek a highly diverse revenue flow, and must now ask you, gentle reader, to chip in.
For the balance of March, the Spy will not be shy about asking for this support. Taking a page out of the playbook of other fundraising programs online, we will have a “pop-up” appear for a few moments to beg the question of a modest monthly contribution or one-time donation to keep the Spy going.
I hope with your help the Spy can continue to serve Talbot County for many decades to come with your help.
Please make a contribution here.