MinnPost, a nonprofit news website founded in 2007, features high-quality journalism for readers who are intensely interested in news and analysis about Minnesota — especially about public-policy issues and politics. We have a staff of 20. Monthly page views are 1.2 million, with 1 million unique visitors, and growing.
MinnPost’s excellence is recognized by journalistic peers, by its readers, and by foundations and individuals that support our work. Last month MinnPost won 10 journalistic awards, including first place in the “Best Website” category, at the Minnesota Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists’ 2015 Page One Awards. Calling the site “visually appealing,” judges who chose MinnPost as best website cited “the clean and easy-to-use navigation,” an “intuitive” layout, “easy-to-find and simply designed social media icons” and typeface/fonts that “were clean, simple and easy to read.”
We consider those attributes just a starting point. During the past year MinnPost has developed better and better ways not only to present journalism but to interact with our readers on the website and in social media and in person as well.
In May and June of 2014, MinnPost added two new top leaders (publisher and executive editor) and began a major multiyear initiative to increase membership. Later in the year we were recognized by the ONA for general excellence. During the past year we hired a user-experience engineer and a full-time data reporter. Reader research in 2014 showed a high level of satisfaction with MinnPost’s content and user experience among both members and non-members, even as we designed improvements.
Among our interactive journalistic tools for readers: Since 2012 MinnPost has published a Live Election Results Dashboard that we developed using real-time data from the Minnesota Secretary of State’s office; what’s new this past year is that in November 2014 we took our innovation to others. After the election, MinnPost Interactive News Developer Alan Palazzolo and News Editor and data editor Tom Nehil traveled to New York at the invitation of Open News to work on making the underlying technologies available to other small newsrooms that might want to run their own. In New York, as Nehil explained in an Inside MinnPost article, Palazzolo made the code more generally applicable to any organization while Nehil worked on developing a tool for reading Virginia’s election results to show that MinnPost’s software would work in another state. Then they created a web page explaining the project with an interactive demo, available on MinnPost’s code site. (URLs provided.)
Over the past few months our Data Team also built interactive maps to show how a given neighborhood is zoned, where Minnesota voter turnout was heavy or light, where the GOP made gains in the Minnesota House of Representatives, and other tools, available at www.minnpost.com/data.
We also expanded our account management system for users logged into our website. They are able to (after following a streamlined registration/login process) edit their preferences for newsletters, and for website topics. Once they’ve done so, they can see new articles that relate to their interests, right in their account pages. They can also see their current membership status in the same system.
With support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, MinnPost and the Voice of San Diego have been developing systems to manage member information and facilitate membership growth. In 2014, the Knight Foundation awarded us a two-year grant totaling $600,000 for this purpose. The staff has conduct research about our readers and is building systems and tactics needed to attract more readers to become members. We have been adding new benefits both for members at various levels and for readers who become registered users.
MinnPost is a heavy utilizer of social media platforms, including Facebook and Twitter, where the main MinnPost account has 32,468 followers and is active throughout the day. Our writers and editors tweet under separate accounts as well; political reporter Briana Bierschbach won a Page One Award for hers last month.
MinnPost also has a robust physical presence in the Twin Cities, putting on a series of public-policy events called MinnPost Social several times during the year. Our most recent was a wrapup of the legislative session on the evening of its closing, featuring our two Capitol reporters and moderated by our executive editor, Andrew Putz. Others events during the last year included discussions on health equity, pollinators, education policy and the arts. Our Data Team even created a visual representation of all 13,000+ lakes in Minnesota and held an interactive arts event at the Northern Spark Festival.
These efforts, along with our record and reputation for outstanding journalism, have garnered several recent grants for coverage from the Bush Foundation, the Blandin Foundation, the Robina Foundation and the Joyce Foundation, among other supporters.