The Philadelphia Citizen, a news startup from former Philadelphia Magazine and Philadelphia Daily News editor Larry Platt, started quietly posting stories last month. Early offerings include a feature on Leadnomics’ effort to collect paper for the Philadelphia School District and commentary on the spiked sale of PGW, which encourages readers to express their displeasure with the issue to their Councilperson.
“Ultimately, we’ll marry [content] with activist campaigns to reignite citizenship in the place where it was born, while continuing to partner with entities like Young Involved Philadelphia, Pattison Leader and others on events centered around ideas that can move Philly forward,” Platt wrote in an email.
The Citizen hosted several events in the last year, including a “Millennial Mouth Off” during YIP’s “State of Young Philly” conference in the fall. It plans to launch a new website and mobile app in mid-2015. (Platt has long followed YIP. See this profile of the group that the Daily News ran in 2011, when Platt was editor.)
Backed by the flashy, civic-minded Dilworth Paxson CEO Ajay Raju, the Citizen is another news startup in a town that’s suddenly flush with them (see: Billy Penn, the Philly Voice). What seems to set the Citizen apart is its strong civic focus, perhaps even stronger than Billy Penn’s “A mobile platform for a better Philly” and yes, Technical.ly’s (est. 2009) “Better cities through technology.”
“By early 2015, we plan on launching an interactive website, the purpose of which is to mobilize an army of citizens to take their city back from the purveyors of the status quo,” reads the Citizen’s manifesto.
Platt’s also taking a different approach when it comes to ownership of the nonprofit. Taking a cue from the NFL’s Green Bay Packers, he plans to sell shares of the organization. Like the Green Bay Packers’ setup, this stock wouldn’t go up or down and wouldn’t result in dividends, like with a publicly-traded company.
“We want the citizens of Philadelphia to own this civic entity,” he wrote in an email.
The details — like if stock purchasers will have to be accredited investors — are still being ironed out, he said.
Aside from funding the Citizen’s incubation period, Raju will back the Citizen to the tune of $500,000 if the Citizen can match that amount, Platt said.
As for revenue, Platt kept mum, only saying that there would be “multiple revenue streams, including sponsorship opportunities.”
There are four on the Citizen team, including Platt, Maureen Ferguson, Rosella LaFevre and magazine writer Roxanne Patel Shepelavy. The team works out of Center City coworking space Benjamin’s Desk from time to time.
Below, watch the Citizen’s promo video.
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