First, hello there. Thanks for checking us out. I’m Mike Orren, the founder of News Oasis. 

I’m a lifelong local news zealot. I’ve never held a job other than managing swimming pools or working for a local media company. In the early 2000’s, I created the largest purely digital local news company of the time, Pegasus News. Over the years, I’ve led and consulted for regional magazines, local and national TV networks, content marketing agencies — and most recently was Chief Product and Marketing Officer for DallasNews Corporation

Last year, I took a long sabbatical to deal with some family health issues and to recharge in what I’ve called “my halftime break.” During that, I spent a lot of time thinking on what I wanted to do when (and if) I grow up. Over the months, it became clear that my greatest passion is ending news deserts in this country. 

There are varying definitions of a news desert. Ours is this: any community that lacks regular coverage of local government and schools.

While some have pegged that half the counties in the US are news deserts (so 1,572), we believe that the number is much higher when you consider cities without coverage in counties that may have some coverage. Our working number is 4,000 — and even that may be conservative.

We are huge fans of the burgeoning entrepreneurial and nonprofit ecosystem growing up around local news. I want to be clear that our belief is that the best way to provide local news is via a ground-up, locally-owned enterprise. We will do nothing to compete with such groups and will offer them assistance wherever it is wanted.

But while these new enterprises are both innovative and committed, the sad truth is that they are not a near-term answer to the news desert crisis. There are roughly 500 of these companies as of this writing, which at the most aggressive count, would leave 3,500 deserts untouched.

However, many of these enterprises are focused on metro areas that may have seen a weakening of local news, but are not deserts. They all boldly pursue new models and means of delivering news in often financially trying circumstances. So it’s hard to imagine that another 3,500 are going to pop up on their own.

News Oasis seeks to launch an owned-and-operated digital news operation in every community that lacks local news coverage. We will not enter any market with an existing news operation (traditional or new) that is regularly covering government and schools. 

We will achieve this via a hub-and-spoke model that is logistically not too dissimilar from what large-scale chains currently execute. We will have a centralized (but virtual) “home office” with editors, designers, product managers, developers, business development, finance, and any other service that is not directly reporting the news.

Our model diverges on a couple key fronts: 

  • We believe that for a midsized market, we can create a product that improves the community on roughly $150,000 a year in incremental costs. That’s mostly for a couple reporters and their support needs. 
  • Our business development team will pre-subscribe $150,000 in support before we launch in a market. That will come primarily from local philanthropy and sponsorships. Over time, we will add voluntary memberships to the revenue mix. If we manage to raise more than the minimum, we will invest the surplus in additional reporting resources for that community. Regardless, it means that each market will be sustainable from day one. While many communities may merit a larger news operation, we believe that providing something is better than nothing, and hope that our spokes will grow to fill larger needs over time.

We intend to file to become a Benefit Corporation, meaning among other things that doing good (spreading local news) is as important, if not more so, than profits. We’ll seek to maintain a small margin to insure sustainability, but will invest the majority of any profits into launching in more news deserts.

We are in the process of finalizing our alpha model, which will launch in a few select communities, even without local funding. During this time, we’re also building our team and seeking capital. We will have a relationship with an existing “fiscal sponsor” nonprofit, which will allow us to legally and ethically receive tax-deductible donations and foundation grants. We will also be raising capital from impact investors who want to balance doing well and doing good. Finally, we may engage in equity crowdfunding if we find enough grassroots support for this concept.

If you are interested in reviewing our more detailed work-in-progress business plan, please fill out this form.

If you are interested in joining the team, please fill out this form. (Note that we are not onboarding paid team members yet, but we already have a significant queue of excellent folks who are eager to join us when the moment comes.)

If you believe that your community is a fit as one of our alpha or beta markets, please fill out this form. In our initial phase, we are focusing on communities of 100,000-500,000 population. We will refine our model for smaller communities over time.