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Monday, August 18, 2014 by Michael Kanin

A note from Austin Monitor publisher Mike Kanin.

Hi there. And welcome to our new home.

When the Capital of Texas Media Foundation purchased the former In Fact Daily this past October, we marked out a rough path through what we felt would be our first year. More coverage was the first thing; deeper coverage was another. We wanted to modernize and standardize our operations. We wanted the publication that would become the Austin Monitor to build off the best parts of In Fact Daily — namely, its reporters’ comprehensive knowledge of our City and County, and their seeming ability to get to nearly every meeting. We wanted to make it better.

And boy did we want a new website. For us, all of that — from the coverage, to the modernization, to the better use of our reporting, to the future of our efforts — hinged and hinges on moving out from behind a very effective but very dated platform. So here we are. We hope you like it.

A few notes about the thinking that went into this design. We started with our base. We wanted our continuing readership — the folks who, for years, have depended on our City Hall coverage and supported us through our transition — to continue to find familiar value in the publication. We have tried to beef up the appearance just a bit without losing any of the easy access to information. (Thus the continued, albeit altered, use of the front-page scroll.) We also wanted to help readers more intuitively find what they are looking for. We’ve added categorization — those eight clickable sections at the top — and a tagging system we call “Key Players and Topics,” designed to both provide quick navigation to similar stories and give a bit more background information about what we’re covering.

But we also believe our continued existence demands that while we continue to do the things we do best, we embrace a new segment of readers. These are the folks who have skimmed our headlines, maybe read a story here and there — maybe more (wink, wink) when they are forwarded to them by one of our subscribers. We were troubled by the notion that some of the best local reporting in the region goes unread by the majority of residents of that region. Our mission — held by the Capital of Texas Media Foundation — is to educate and inform. To make better voters. To help Central Texans, as the area grows into itself, make well-rounded choices about our collective future. You can’t do that from behind a paywall.

So the Web change became something else, too: a chance for us to broaden our readership, and thus begin to bleed a bit of the CoTMF ethos into the Monitor. New readers will find a tiered pay meter. Everyone, everywhere, will get five free articles a month. If you find that you’d like to dive just a bit deeper, our Keep Me Informed subscription will get you up to 10 articles per month for $5. The next level, designed for Civic Enthusiasts — the folks who find themselves interacting (or wanting to interact) with their region on a more regular basis — comes in at $20 per month. For that, you get access to all of our current stories. Seven days is the cutoff there.

For those who are already in (or ready to get in) to the nitty-gritty of City Hall and county governments, we’ve got an All Access pass. This gets you all of our work — current stories, archives and a new feature we’re calling TipSheets (meeting agendas, annotated by our reporters) — for $90 a month. Current subscribers to the Monitor are in this category, and will remain there until it’s time to renew.

The login is straightforward. But you’ll need to use the email address we have on file. Let me know if you need me to send that to you. I can be found at Michael dot kanin at austinmonitor dot com. And please don’t hesitate to ask any other questions.

You also now have the ability to sign up for one or all of three daily updates. You’ll get headlines as you always did — albeit at 5 a.m., rather than midnight. To that, we’ve added a midmorning email called “What we woke up to …”. There, you’ll get a glimpse of what Monitor reporters are reading to start their respective days. Its intention is to offer you another perspective on what’s happening. You can also sign up for an afternoon update, which will tell you what meetings we’re headed to that evening.

Speaking of meetings, you’ll note the new Calendar section of the Monitor. It’s still a work in progress, but we’ve put most of the major City meetings on it. Feel free to let us know about any other civic events you’d like us to add. This will continue to grow.

We’re also excited to announce that CoTMF, the parent Texas nonprofit organization of the Monitor — read: the folks who keep the lights on — can now accept online donations via If you’re interested in becoming part of our effort, please click on the Donate button up top. That will take you to the site. It’s not yet quite as pretty as we’d like it to be — its interface does not play nice with our logo — but be assured that everything works just fine. As always, donations to CoTMF are made to our fiscal sponsor, the Online Journalism Project, as we work to get our very own federal nonprofit status.

Speaking of works in progress: Note the “Beta” tag underneath our logo. Indeed, we view this as the very first iteration of what this site will become. We are certainly open to suggestions, and for that, we’ve got a feedback form on the right-hand side of our main page. Click it to tell me what you think. Too much? Too little? Needs more? Small functional detail we’ve overlooked? Bring it. All of it.

I’ve given myself a hard cap of 1,500 words. I’m getting close. But before I go, I want to drop a few hints about the future. We believe our new site will allow us to continue our expansion. We’re looking toward regular coverage of Hays and Williamson counties. Like nearly all of our peers, we’re also branching out into hard data reporting. The first two projects will appear shortly.

None of this would have been possible without the generous support of our charter members. These are the folks who got behind our vision early. We’ve listed them here. On each of their donor pages, you’ll find a way to read our coverage of them since they became charter members. (You’ll also see specific notes at the bottom of each story when they pop into our news.) We’re confident you won’t find any bias. But we sure do invite you to check us.

That about covers it for now. I will continue, a la Andrew Sullivan, to update you on our progress. You’ll see more data next time.

Until then, I hope you find what’s in these pages (they are still pages, right?) useful, informative, educational and better than what you’ve seen before. In any case, it is our goal to make it that way. I hope you’ll keep me on target. I’m counting on it.

Mike Kanin, Publisher


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