Discourse Media is an innovative digital news media company that provides high-quality investigative journalism about the issues that matter most to Canadians. We are boldly re-imagining journalism: how it is produced and delivered, how it is funded and most importantly, how it can serve communities — not advertisers or foreign investors.
The current news media model is broken. Reliance on advertising has caused media outlets to chase clicks, rather than create value for media consumers. The result? Fewer stories of importance are told or heard. From urban centres to remote communities, our leaders, courthouses and governments are less scrutinized and less accountable than ever before.
There is a growing unmet demand for quality, trustworthy stories in Canada and beyond. This is a huge business opportunity.
With three years of award-winning journalism that has reached millions of readers and strong revenue growth, we are one of the first media companies in Canada to seize this rare moment to reinvent our industry.
We’re now looking for your help to take Discourse national. We’re offering Canadians the opportunity to invest in Discourse because we believe that media that exist to serve people should be owned by them. We are building Discourse for Canadians. We aim to create value —and profits —for our shareholders for years to come.
Around the world, news media companies are proving that subscriptions and memberships can replace advertising revenues. Just as the internet revolutionized the way people pay for music and television, audiences are increasingly willing to pay for high-quality journalism content. The so-called “Trump-bump” has accelerated audience growth.
With 3.4 billion internet users worldwide and 12 per cent annual growth in smartphone users, we can imagine a world in which global news media subscriptions reach Spotify (50 million) and Netflix (95 million) levels. Discourse aims to be a global leader in news media engagement.
Canadians are already paying $115 million a year for digital news subscriptions, an amount that will triple in 10 years. Growth will be driven by millennials, Discourse’s core audience. We have identified a target audience of 3 million early adopters — influential and engaged young people who deeply care about issues, and are increasingly able and willing to pay for quality trustworthy journalism.
In spring 2018, Discourse is taking its innovative journalism product national. Our goal is to build Canada’s largest community of engaged citizens through a membership-based service. We’re launching a digital product that offers the highest-quality investigative journalism about issues that matter most to Canadians. Based on an Artificial Intelligence framework, our technology will enable our members to partner with a cross-country network of investigative journalists, and to be part of the impact by taking action on issues that matter most to them.
Our journalists work for you. Their job is to listen carefully, to involve the audience in the choices we make about what we cover and to stay with stories in order to deepen our impact. Our work is the opposite of today’s click-bait, round-the-clock news media landscape. We put the audience first. We thrive not on conflict, but on meaningful solutions to issues confronting all Canadians.
We’ll start next year with 10,000 members. Our goal is to grow to 30,000 members and 20 investigative units nationwide by 2020.
Discourse is uniquely placed to reach, and exceed, these targets.
Our growing team is led by Erin Millar, a female entrepreneur and journalist who has received multiple awards for her writing and innovation. Our executive staff has successfully developed large-scale international organizations and has led some of the world’s most respected media properties, while our newsroom is populated with visionary, award-winning and digital-savvy reporters.
The public reaction? Discourse has above-average audience engagement and loyalty — metrics that correlate with likelihood to pay for journalism. With your investment, we will build technology that enables our journalists and members to scale this impact-driven approach to journalism.
Look at what’s happening around the globe (we sure have). Discourse joins a select, but successful, group of media companies forging new funding models that put real people at the heart of what they do and how they do it.
The New York Times now generates 57 per cent of its revenue from its audience.
Holland’s De Correspondent broke records with an audience-funded model that started with 20,000 backers and $1.7 million in funding from individuals. They now have 56,000 members.
El Español raised $4 million through equity crowdfunding, and now has 5,624 small shareholders and a staff of 100.
From Netflix to news: subscription models are the future of audience-building and retention. Reaching audiences through a membership model that involves our readers in our content and impact — not by putting content behind a paywall — is the future of profitable, public-service media in Canada.
Journalism has long been monetized through hybrid models, in which no single revenue source pays the full cost of production. We will grow Discourse through a hybrid model of diversified revenues, similar to other successful digital media companies that achieve profitability through a mix of subscriptions, events and sponsorship.
We will continue to grow our existing revenue streams, including collaborative media campaigns, government and development grants, the Discourse Insight Lab, corporate sponsorship and media commissions. Your investment will enable us to introduce a new membership revenue stream in 2018 that will drive our national expansion.
We’ll continue to develop new revenue streams, including book publishing, licensing content for educational purposes, data communication services and repackaging research into intelligence products.
Assuming the maximum raise of $750,000, the proceeds will be used as follows:
We are building Discourse for the long haul and plan to create value for our shareholders, in terms of impact and profit, for years to come. Once we have proven the success of this model in Canada, we will gear up for dramatic growth and consider the best exit for shareholders. This may take the form of continued dividends, offering buybacks to shareholders, or an eventual strategic merger or acquisition.
We’re asking you, our fellow Canadians, to fund this new model of journalism — not to donate so a few more stories can be written about a hot topic or two, but rather to invest in a long-term solution to Canada’s media collapse.
Just as we believe that great journalism is needed like never before, we believe that media that exists to serve our citizens should be owned by them. Help build the next generation of media in this country by becoming a Founding Member of Discourse.
By investing, you will enable us to reach an audience of millions through our continued media partnerships, and grow our community of paying members eager to engage in constructive discourse about ideas that matter.
You will enable us to build the most diverse and inclusive newsroom in Canada — in the staff we hire, the topics we cover, and how and where we report.
And we hope that as we grow, others will too. We want our success to inspire the arrival of diverse new media organizations in Canada after years of industry contraction: media for and about all Canadians.
Ours is a big country. It needs many strong voices.
Be part of it. Own part of it.
October 20, 2017
Journalists across Canada and beyond have been following Discourse. Explore a selection of media coverage below:
Op-ed: “News industry should feel full digital disruption.” Founder and CEO Erin Millar and President Ian Gill in Policy Options
Press: “Built on collaboration, Discourse Media closes in on profit.” MediaShift
Press: “What does it take to be a ‘full-service’ digital journalism organization? Ask Discourse Media.” Nieman Journalism Lab
Press: “Discourse Media uses solutions journalism to ‘track the slow burn of change.’” journalism.co.uk
Op-ed: “Unfetter tax code to support quality journalism.”Erin Millar and Ian Gill in Policy Options
Interview: “The news is dead so what comes next?” Ian Gill on CANADALAND
Press: “Special series: Collaborative journalism.”MediaShift
Press: “Is collaboration the key to journalism’s future?”The Tyee
Press: “Investigating what’s going right.” The Signal
October 20, 2017
From the beginning, Discourse Media’s innovative model of collaborative, impact-driven journalism has been recognised with national and international awards. See our full list of awards and explore the corresponding stories below:
2017 Edward Murrow Award for Best Investigative Reporting (international small digital news category) from the Radio Television Digital News Association for Justice Is Not Blind, a collaborative investigation into why Indigenous people are overrepresented in the Canadian justice system (with Maclean’s).
2017 Silver for the Best Digital Editorial Package from the Digital Publishing Awards for Power Struggle, a collaboration with journalists around the world investigating solutions to energy poverty and Canada’s role (with over dozen media partners including the New York Times, Guardian, Daily Maverick, Al Jazeera and more).
2017 Silver for the Best Investigative Reporting from the National Magazine Awards (with Maclean’s) See: Justice Is Not Blind.
2017 Finalist for Best Long-Form Feature Writing from the National Magazine Awards (with Maclean’s). See: Justice Is Not Blind.
2017 Finalist for the CJF Jackman Award for Excellence from the Canadian Journalism Foundation.
2016 CJF Innovation Award from the Canadian Journalism Foundation for Moving Forward, a collaboration with 14 media outlets and academics to create deeper issue-based data journalism about a high stakes transit referendum in Metro Vancouver. Our news app the Cost of Commute Calculator, which allowed users to punch in their commute and see a breakdown of the full cost to themselves and to society, was cited by journalists and experts around the world.
2015 Bob Carty Fellowship awarded by the Canadian Journalists for Free Expression.
2015 Solutions Journalism Fellowship from Ashoka Canada.