Be scrappy.

Be scrappy.
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Be scrappy.

One of the many phrases you’ll hear from Corey Ford, the managing director of Matter. What is Matter? A start-up accelerator with the mission to support media entrepreneurs focused on “building a more informed, connected, and empowered society.” A pretty lofty mission, but a mission we share at Community Newspaper Holdings, Inc. (CNHI).

CNHI was born in the late 1990’s, which makes it a fairly young media company, but its core focus is print and digital publishing, a legacy business. We publish newspapers, magazines and digital sites serving more than 120 communities every day. Our communities, like the world, are undergoing unprecedented technological change. It is an exciting time to be in the media industry — it isn’t for the faint of heart — and if you don’t embrace and revel in the tumult, long-term success may prove evasive.

Scrappy is a must.

Representing CNHI, I was able to participate in the Matter application process in early January. Watching each team of entrepreneurs make their case for inclusion in Matter Four was inspiring, whether they came from a journalism background or not. Each believed their idea, their team and their vision would activate the mission of Matter. That first exposure to Matter was so important, even if I only had a very rudimentary understanding of design thinking at the time.

While CNHI is a good-sized media company, we’re not so big that we can afford to ignore innovation originating from external entities. We partner with companies that have many of the same qualities and values, but no value is more important than a culture of innovation. We want our partners to push us and they must appreciate being pushed.

One of the reasons CNHI joined Matter was to ensure that we were continuing to develop our culture of innovation. But we didn’t realize that participating in the Matter application process would provide insight that we could immediately leverage to identify and select future partners.

Are they scrappy?

A few weeks after the application process was complete, two of my colleagues and I were able to go through a condensed version of the Matter process. Design thinking boot camp, is how Corey described it. Intense, edifying and incredibly transformative, those five days at Matter have taken up residence in our thoughts, work and vision for the future of how best to serve our local communities.

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In the coming days, various team members from CNHI will get to talk through questions, ideas and issues from the teams in Matter Four. Corey calls these meet-ups “intentional serendipity” and we’re eager to get in their flow. Their questions and ideas will challenge our conventional wisdom and our answers will, hopefully, spur the iterative process in whatever direction possible for them and their business model.

Not only have we been able to get up close and professional with the teams in Matter Four, in a very short time the Matter community has provided an introduction to a couple of companies, one each from Matter Two and Matter Three, that we see real partnership opportunities. While we may have engaged both of these companies outside of the Matter ecosystem, either by introduction by another media company, a targeted pitch or happenstance, the fact that they emerged from a design thinking and innovative business model approach accelerates the vetting process. That means our communities benefit more quickly and our company is more efficient.


We get to do business with the Associated Press every day and work with colleagues from A.H. Belo, The McClatchy Company and the Knight Foundation on various industry initiatives often, but Matter provides another opportunity to share ideas and work through complex issues with each. Through Matter, we have also been fortunate to gain exposure to the innovative cultures of KQED public radio and television, which serves northern California and PRX, an online marketplace for distribution, review, and licensing of public radio programming.

From hoped for and expected outcomes to not-dreamed-of and unexpected results, our partnership with Matter is rewarding on many levels. To inform, connect and empower our local communities is our shared goal and for the citizens of our communities, that is an imperative Matter.