Changes at Streetsblog in 2015

When Streetsblog launched in 2006, the site made an impact almost immediately. The daily scrutiny of NYC transportation agencies and elected officials created new opportunities for policy reform, leading to real change in the design and operation of our streets. It wasn’t long before advocates from out of town contacted Streetsblog about bringing this model of advocacy journalism to their cities, and where we could assemble the resources to pull it off, we did. In the course of a few years, Streetsblog became a truly national voice for overhauling our car-based transportation system.

With growth come risks. Our team knows how to make an impact with our reporting and commentary, but like many other media outlets, we’re still figuring out how to make the business of our journalism work. This process isn’t a straight line — there’s bound to be some trial and error.

In 2015, we’re making key changes based on what we’ve learned so far. While this will entail some difficult transitions, the new approaches Streetsblog is adopting position us to continue making an impact in more places over the long run.

Yesterday, we announced that Streetsblog Chicago is suspending publication after two excellent years of coverage from John Greenfield and Steven Vance. We hope this will be a temporary situation as John rustles up the financial support to revive the site under the umbrella of a new 501(c)3 separate from OpenPlans, the non-profit that publishes Streetsblog. (In Los Angeles, Streetsblog’s Damien Newton weathered the same transition a few years ago by starting up the Southern California Streets Initiative, which today runs a thriving local transportation news site at Streetsblog LA.)

Given current budget constraints, we’ve also had to cut two other valued members of our editorial staff, Tanya Snyder and Payton Chung.

We hired Tanya in 2010 as editor of our national site, called Streetsblog Capitol Hill at the time. Her leadership and energy built it into a compelling news source, with a broad and influential audience.

Tanya learned the ropes of federal transportation policy with alacrity, culminating with her coverage of the MAP-21 bill. Then she proceeded to steer our national coverage in new and varied directions under the Streetsblog USA banner. Tanya plugged her readers into the movement for transportation reform from coast to coast, delved into fresh topics like car-free parenting, and started up a new content platform in the Talking Headways Podcast. We’re going to miss her tremendously.

For the last year, Payton’s sharp analytical skill and policy expertise added depth to the reporting across several Streetsblog outlets. While you may not have seen his byline frequently, as editor-at-large, Payton shaped content all over Streetsblog USA, Streetsblog Chicago, and Streetsblog SF every day. I count the three-part series on privately financed highways he produced with Angie Schmitt last November as the best piece of reporting that Streetsblog published in 2014.

Going forward, Angie will be directing Streetsblog USA coverage. She has a nose for stories that get at the heart of why transportation policy needs to change, and a keen eye for visuals that grab people’s attention. I’m excited to see where she takes the site from here.

For a small non-profit news organization, these are not minor changes. While Streetsblog’s core operations remain securely funded with a mix of support from individual contributions, foundations, and ads, we have resolved to adopt a few key shifts in strategy.

First and foremost: We have to adjust our expansion model. We continue to receive strong interest from advocates who want to bring Streetsblog’s brand of advocacy journalism to their cities, and we want to work with them to make that happen. Streetsblog LA points to the way forward: In the LA model, OpenPlans offers editorial expertise and a technical platform to a local partner organization who employs the reporters, instead of OpenPlans taking on everything in-house. We hope to replicate this model with John Greenfield’s reboot of Streetsblog Chicago, and in other cities where potential partners have reached out about starting up Streetsblogs.

The other change is to make better use of our capacity to generate revenue from ads. Streetsblog reaches a sufficiently large audience that ad sales are viable on a much larger scale than we’ve pursued to date. We can’t afford to leave that revenue on the table. It may be jarring at first, but more ads on Streetsblog will mean a healthier news organization in the long run, one that can better achieve its mission of connecting people to information about the movement for livable streets.

Thank you for reading and supporting Streetsblog as we embark on these changes.

  • 🙁
    Best of luck to Tanya and Payton

  • Super sad to hear that Tanya and Payton are leaving. Best of luck to them and to the Streetsblog of the future!

  • I can completely understand and relate to these moves. Making these changes isn’t easy and I give you props for not giving up and pressing forward with optimism and new/renewed strategies for making it all pencil out. Long live Streetsblog. — Jonathan from BikePortland

  • Adam Herstein

    Looks like sensationalist headlines and misleading graphs weren’t selling as well you thought…

  • Joe R.

    Have you considered some targeted advertising, like maybe for bikes and bike paraphernalia? This seems like it might be a win-win arrangement. Sad to hear Tanya and Payton are leaving, wish the money was there to keep them on.

  • QueensWatcher

    That’s Gothamist you are thinking of. Two doors down on the left…

  • Brad Aaron

    Yet here you are.

  • Well, I guess I should take more full responsibility for headlines and graphs, then. Looking back at your comments, I see that you’re really not a fan of Y-axes that don’t begin at zero. Usually, I’m not, either, but I’d rather use those than try to explain (especially since I can’t assume everyone’s taken calculus) why derivatives/rates of change are important for very large quantities that are changing by 0.5% instead of 1.0%.

  • RoeJ

    Maybe for you someone should advertise egg proof bike wear.

  • Steve Davis

    Huge loss for great writing and coverage of important transportation issues. Bummed for Tanya and Payton, and I wish them both the best of luck in 2015 as they press on. Same goes for Streetsblog across the board, of course!

  • Please click on the ads, whatever they are..it’s like leaving a tip for bloggers.

  • shamelessly

    Sorry to hear that Tanya and Payton are leaving, but I’m glad you’re doing what you think will keep Streetsblog viable.
    As much as I dislike ads, I understand the need for ad revenue. Not sure if it would require too much of an investment in content management, but I wonder if you might be able to add a subscription/sustainer option to Streetsblog so readers could pay monthly or yearly to have the ads removed? I’ve seen other sites experiment with this, including arstechnica.com and talkingpointsmemo.com.

  • Larry Littlefield

    Sounds like folks at Streetsblog have to face the realities the economic data says most people are facing, more so the later you were born in this country. I guess that’s motivation to advocate for a less expensive lifestyle, where you don’t need one car per adult to get around and earn a living.

    I just hope you attract the right advertisers, those consistent with your message.

  • Classy

  • Flakker

    Really unhappy to lose both of you. Tanya, I loved the podcast and your role on it in particular. Best of luck to you guys and stay strong.

  • Eric

    Like lots of readers, I will miss Tanya and Payton. Thanks and best wishes for great things in the future.

  • Rabi

    Such a shame to hear about Tanya and Payton. Talking Headways took some time to find it’s voice, but developed into a really wonderful podcast.

  • I would contribute if Streetsblog were on https://gratipay.com, for example.

  • Diagonalec

    I am fully positive this is just a momentary ducking before the big leap.

  • Jonathan Krall

    Thanks for this report and for your leadership. Streetsblog is a great resource that deserves out support. Best wishes to Tanya, Payton and the entire Streetsblog family.

  • ralph

    By all means, put up the ads! Anything that helps you guys keep up the great work is welcome. I will take note of who’s advertising on your site and patronize those businesses when possible.

  • Nathanael

    Angie’s glorious and deserves the promotion, but I’ll miss Payton’s work.

    Regarding ads: if you want to get real money for ads, you’re going to need to actually have someone employed specifically to drum up advertising. And it’s really helpful if you can get *appropriate* ads; stuff where the readers will actually be interested in the ad. As opposed to the very common “why are there automobile ads on a subway fan site?” phenomenon.