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Reclaiming the hiring process might be the new/old business model to sustain local news

Armed with a Lenfest Institute for Journalism grant, is rethinking career matchmaking for technologists.

Inside the offices of Talent client 14 West. (Photo by Kristin Dudley)
For a lot of us the journey to a new job starts with a familiar admission: We let a friend know we’re looking. Maybe your trusted local news organization (with access to great employers) could be one of those friends.

At, we have spent most of the last decade working on that idea. We think a news organization builds trust with readers and clients and is a natural partner in helping the two do something as intimate as finding a career opportunity that works for both. We’re thrilled to announce that we are a proud recipient of a local news sustainability grant from the Lenfest Institute for Journalism, the grant-making foundation that holds Philadelphia’s daily legacy newspapers in trust.

Though they happened to be based in Philadelphia, like us, understand we don’t think what we’re working on is only relevant in Philly. We publish daily across the mid-Atlantic and have reported on local economies in change throughout the world.

The Lenfest Institute for Journalism maintains that preserving local journalism is essential for democracy. The grant we’ve received was awarded per our submission to Lenfest’s Local News Business Model Challenge. At, the team has spent the last 10 years enabling a localized newsroom unreliant on traditional media advertising revenue. With the foresight to recognize that a dependency on ad dollars was unsustainable, has been quite creative over the years to keep the lights on.

As we enter this new decade in our company’s history, we’re leaning into what has come naturally between our talented community of readers and our local business-centric content: serendipitous professional connections. We believe the existing talent recruiting model is broken and that we are the best ally for changing it for all of us.

Now, we’re not exactly reinventing the wheel. Your local news source used to be the resource for hiring — right from within the classifieds. We are reclaiming the “help wanted” section for news publishers, while at the same time reimagining it. For local journalism to thrive again, we must also reclaim the profitable search and placement industry which our readers have expressed such dissatisfaction with.

So, where do we start? We have what one might expect — a jobs board, an effective local career fair strategy and recently relaunched a robust and growing company board telling the stories of employers throughout the region. We even developed a not-so-expected product prior to my joining in the fall as CPO: a card game for enhancing job interviews.

What’s next is getting smarter and thinking differently about all of these experiences. We’ll do this by understanding our reader’s career journey and answering big questions such as:

  • How can we prepare someone for what’s next in their career before they even realize it’s time to start a (stressful) search?
  • How can we ensure our readers professionally prosper to become the leaders that will impact the future of our cities?
  • How can we reveal awesome employers and great job opportunities that may not be on the radar of our community?

By enabling our platform to make smart suggestions in content and open job opportunities, we intend to lead readers toward what might be next for them in their career. We’re using our Lenfest grant to dig deeper into our opt-in Match program (presently in uber-beta form). Readers who submit to this program provide us with unique understanding of their work preferences and history. Exploring capabilities with a data science team, we hope to understand how the information we’ve gathered can help us to easily introduce our talented readers to those great open job opportunities they may have missed.

You know we’re scrappy over here, and so we are grateful to Lenfest for this grant which allows us to test some of our assumptions. We hope to not only design a greater business model for ourselves, but one that can be replicated by other niche news publishers within the local communities they serve.

If you have thoughts or feedback on your personal career navigation experience, I’d love to hear from you. You can find me at the at NET/WORK in Philly on Feb. 26; Baltimore on March 14; Delaware on March 20 and DC on March 27.


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