THE SHORT STORY
The daily Baltimore Rex newsletter is ending, but more local news projects, collaborations and experiments are on the way.
THE LONG STORY
I’ve decided to stop the daily newsletter for now, so I can focus on other projects and new ideas for Baltimore Rex. I started Baltimore Rex last year as a simple way for people to follow daily news in Baltimore, without clickbait, aggressive paywalls, invasive advertising, and all the other audience-hostile bullshit that defines the current online local news experience. My ultimate goal was to make it a little easier for people to become civically engaged in Baltimore (and if I could build a sustainable company at the same time – everybody wins).
I drew inspiration from products like NextDraft, theSkimm, Buzzfeed News’ daily email, Billy Penn, and my own experience building popular local websites in Baltimore. In the last year, Baltimore Rex published nearly 250 daily newsletters, chronicling the day-to-day news in Baltimore and providing ‘big picture’ context in a quickly-digestible format. The response has been overwhelmingly positive – a majority of subscribers read the newsletter every day, with many saying Baltimore Rex became a part of their morning ritual and their on-ramp to Baltimore news. Subscribers continually provided feedback that made Baltimore Rex’s daily briefings better and more useful.
While the subscriber response has been wonderful, audience growth has been slower than I hoped for, making any plans for financial viability feel pretty far off. Beyond my own concerns about building a business, my first goal remains to help increase civic engagement in a city that deserves positive momentum, better leadership, and fresh ideas. When it comes to news and information, Baltimore is overly-dependent on the Baltimore Sun Media Group; despite the strength of its journalists, the company is not locally owned and is not in control of its technology stack – leaving the entire city’s civic sphere vulnerable to the intensifying wobbles of the Tribune Publishing Company. That’s bad for Baltimore, and it will take a lot of work and innovation to fix. In the last few months, I’ve had the opportunity to collaborate with Gus Sentementes at City Explainer on making sense of a giant pile of emails released by the city after a Maryland Public Information Act request (and a glacially-paced response by the Baltimore Sun to publish the same documents). We quickly uncovered one of the most significant stories buried in the emails. More collaborations and experiments are in the pipeline. If I can make the future of Baltimore’s news ecosystem even a little better, Baltimore Rex will be a success.
Instead of pouring energy into the daily news cycle, I hope to focus Baltimore Rex’s output on efforts that will have the greatest impact, especially considering next year’s elections. It won’t be every day, but the plan is to keep publishing can’t-miss Baltimore news here and elsewhere. It should be fun. Thanks for reading, giving feedback, and sharing with your friends. I’m excited for what comes next.