Apr 18, 2024 - Business

California news nonprofit CalMatters acquires tech news nonprofit The Markup


From upper-left to lower-right: Kristen Go, Nabiha Syed, Sisi Wei and Neil Chase; Photo courtesy of CalMatters

CalMatters, a nonprofit news outlet focused on California politics, policy, and community issues, has acquired The Markup, a nonprofit news site focused on technology and data privacy investigations.

Why it matters: With a combined workforce of 100, the deal creates a local, nonprofit news powerhouse in California.

  • CalMatters today employs 72 people and The Markup employs 28. No roles are being eliminated as part of the deal.
  • CalMatters currently has around $12.5 million in philanthropic funding and The Markup has $5 million in philanthropic funding.

Between the lines: The Markup will bolster CalMatters' coverage of tech and tech policy at a time when the sector is growing in national interest.

  • "For us, we're doing these investigations, we're building these tools and we're building these products —why not get it into the bloodstream, where it can really have a very big impact for us? That's kind of a genealogy that we got here," said The Markup CEO Nabiha Syed.

Driving the news: The Markup will continue to operate independently under the CalMatters brand, but there are already conversations underway about ways to align the brands' products and resources over time, said CalMatters CEO Neil Chase.

  • "There's no money that needs to change hands," he added, referring to the deal terms. "You simply bring the staff over, you merge the two checking accounts together, and you keep paying the salaries."
  • Chase will continue as CEO of the combined company, and CalMatters' current editor-in-chief, Kristen Go, will also remain in her role.
  • The Markup's editor-in-chief Sisi Wei will become the company's chief impact officer. Syed will be a strategic advisor to the outlet until she takes a new external role in July.

The big picture: Both entities are mostly funded by philanthropy, but the marriage of the two could drive new commercial opportunities.

  • CalMatters hopes to expand to other products, like its event franchise, by leveraging The Markup's journalists and brand.
  • CalMatters plans to roll out its AI-driven public data tool, Digital Democracy, available to other states beginning next year, Chase said.
  • The deal will help The Markup get its data tools, such as CitizenBrowser and Blacklight, more attention in the Bay Area.

Editor's note: This story has been corrected to clarify that CalMatters currently has around $12.5 million in philanthropic funding, not $12.5.

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