A group of prominent media veterans are advising a team of millennials who are launching a new company called "Column," which modernizes the placement of public notices.
Why it matters: Public notices have been one of the biggest and most reliable revenue streams for local newspapers for centuries. Amid the pandemic, they are becoming more important to local papers that are seeing regular local advertising dry up.
Catch up quick: Public notices are legally required updates from the government to citizens about different types of legal or regulatory proceedings, like ordinances, foreclosures, municipal budgets, adoptions, and public meetings.
Driving the news: Column is a startup company registered as a public benefit corporation. It built a custom tech platform that simplifies the public notice placement process for local newspapers and their clients.
- The technology enables government officials and lawyers to draft, schedule, and proof their public notices in an online portal, while simultaneously allowing newspaper publishers and their staff to receive orders, manage payment, and generate digital affidavits.
- Column is currently used by a few hundred local newspapers and thousands of government and legal clients that place public notices across nine different states and the District of Columbia.
- It recently finalized an agreement with The Washington Post to modernize the online distribution of their public and legal notices.
- It also powers the official statewide public notice website of Colorado and the official public notice site for Kansas.
Details: The company has a full-time team of nine, and is supported and advised by many notable media experts, including David Chavern, CEO of the News Media Alliance and Nancy Gibbs, the faculty director of Harvard's Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy, and the former editor in chief of Time Magazine. It receives occasional informal advice from Marty Baron, executive editor of the Washington Post.
Yes, but: There have been many proposals to move public notices onto government websites, in order to save taxpayer dollars.
- This has become an ongoing source of conflict in state legislatures between the print industry and municipal officials.
What's next: The company has raised its initial funding from a variety of angel investors and entrepreneurs across the media and technology industries, as well as a couple of early-stage venture funds.
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