August 16, 2022

Baltimore Banner, a News Start-Up, Aims to Challenge The Sun

“I just think there has to be a way to figure this out,” he added.

The Banner, which charges for a subscription, is already one of the largest in a raft of local news start-ups that are trying to fill the void left by the closing and downsizing of thousands of newspapers around the country since the rise of the internet. More than 360 local newspapers closed between late 2019 and May alone, according to a report released this week by Northwestern University’s journalism school. And Mr. Bainum has plans to build The Banner to a newsroom of more than 100, eclipsing the size of The Sun, and has promised to contribute or raise $50 million over the first four years.

The bold entry is a test of whether a subscription model for digital-only local news can be sustainable beyond the initial philanthropic capital, and whether there’s an appetite for a second large news publication in cities where competition used to be commonplace. There are also several smaller digital news outlets in the region, including Baltimore Fishbowl, Baltimore Brew and Baltimore Witness. Axios plans to expand its local newsletters to the city this year, and Baltimore Beat, a Black-run nonprofit, plans to resume publishing after a hiatus during the pandemic.

“If you’re really going to take on an established media entity in this kind of economic climate, you better go in like a samurai,” said Josh Tyrangiel, a former Bloomberg Media and Vice executive who grew up in Baltimore and provided informal advice to Mr. Bainum.

“Don’t tread softly, go in forcefully, and expect that you’ll have to spend a lot of money on the product and to market the product,” Mr. Tyrangiel said. “The people of Baltimore are now conditioned to expect very little from their newspaper.”

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