By Cheyenne McNeill
About 10 months ago, Indian Country Today announced that it was suspending publication — an announcement that left their employees and freelancers in shock. But in February, the publication announced that it was officially resuming publication. And even though Indian Country Today is back on the web, editor Mark Trahant says a lot of changes have been made.
When the revitalization process began, the National Congress of American Indians brought in consultants who conducted a feasibility study and scenario planning with Trahant and others to see how to keep the publication running. Trahant noted, “They quickly realized that they had to keep this thing independent for it to remain valuable.”
It was then that Indian Country Today began to search for ways to stay sustainable.
Indian Country Today has focused on making its stories mobile friendly from the beginning. Trahant said, “(Mobile storytelling) is the most remarkable platform in the history of communication because everyone has them.” According to Trahant, 95 percent of Indian Country Today‘s first time site users view content from their cell phones, demonstrating how imperative mobile-friendly content is to the site’s continued success.
Focusing on mobile content isn’t the only change Indian Country Today has made.
After going through the budgets and running numbers, Trahant found that prior to its brief hiatus, Indian Country Today had an operating budget of $3.7 million. Now, if the publication is able to do all it has planned, it will have an operating budget of $1.2 million.
The downside to this budget cut is that Indian Country Today will be spending about $80,000 on its freelance budget, a huge difference from its prior freelance budget of $700,000. Trahant says this will allow people to work with the publication part-time, but it won’t be enough for full-time.
Despite that, Indian Country Today has already started to seek funding for different fellowship opportunities that would allow college students and recent graduates to work in the newsroom.
On July 14, Indian Country Today posted to its Twitter account that it is hiring full-time employees and freelancers. Trahant says the ideal candidate would be a quick writer who has the ability to transition from writing about one issue and tribe to the next.
Indian Country Today and Trahant hope to expand the newsroom to include more multimedia. Trahant says tribal leaders and policymakers often come through the Indian Country Today newsroom in Washington, D.C., and including multimedia would allow the publication to take advantage of brief interviews with those leaders.