March 6, 2019

Local news publishers face a severe economic challenge.  To compensate for declining revenue, they have turned to alternative revenue streams including content recommendation platforms.  These platforms pay local news organizations to place low quality or clickbait content on their websites in return for revenue. While this arrangement provides incremental revenue to the local news organization, it also erodes trust in the organization by associating them with very low quality and obviously clickbait content.

Additionally, by placing links on their websites to these low quality clickbait content sources, they leak users and data further eroding their economic position.

What if there was a way to provide incremental revenue to local news publishers based on high quality content from trustworthy sources?

What if this recommended content was not only high quality but was provided in a way that enabled further onsite engagement for the local news publisher mitigating user and data leakage to the dark side of the content ecosystem?


In November 2018, the Distributed Media Lab team worked with CALmatters leading up to the midterm elections to make the voter guide section of their website embeddable on local news websites like The Santa Cruz Sentinel, Long Beach Post and others.  

DML converted CALmatters voter guide webpages to AMP and bundled the pages into an embeddable AMP Viewer.  When someone clicked on the embedded widget an AMP Viewer would overlay the web page instead of sending the user to a new URL.

This benefited the participating local news websites by maintaining users onsite facilitating further engagement.  It benefited CALmatters by providing distributed AMP engagement.

Within the first week of contacting local news orgs about the project, the CALmatters collection was embedded on over 20 local news websites and this distributed engagement in aggregate ranked higher than Facebook as a referral source.  

The value of a distributed media model was clear!  Local publishers got free high quality content and CALmatters got free quality distribution.

The Lenfest Foundation heard about this initial success and provided a grant to further develop the model.


Our objective now is to layer in and scale a revenue stream for the local news organizations and evolve the model to enhance trust and improve the economic position for local news media publishers.


If you represent a local news website and would like to learn more or get involved in the project’s development, reach out via