Last week, the obscure local political website Non Doc announced it will cease operations through the end of the year, and is in a desperate search for a wealthy benefactor to save them. Who isn’t, right?
Here are some of the details via Non Doc‘s esteemed Editor-In-Chief, Williams “Tres” Archibald Savage Jr. the III.
NonDoc suspending operations, seeking solutions
During our three-plus years running NonDoc Media, we have received a lot of compliments. People largely like our work, but those who ask about our financial situation are often surprised to learn of our skeletal existence.
Whether it’s the relatively clean look of our site, the impact of our efforts or the fact we have managed to publish at least one piece of content for 1,183 consecutive days, people typically recognize the journalism industry’s challenges but presume we are making decent money. We usually respond by proposing people support our Writers’ Fund or encouraging organizations to “buy local” with their advertising budgets, yet we avoid describing the true nature of NonDoc’s pecuniary picture.
But today, after months of consideration and financial consternation, we feel like wizards who must step out from behind the curtain.
Thus, we are suspending our publishing operations through the end of the year while offering potential investors the opportunity to obtain and grow NonDoc.com, Oklahoma’s best media website according to the Society of Professional Journalists’ local chapter.
We hope this suspension will allow for fruitful conversations with supporters and community stakeholders, and we hope that a sustainable path forward can be found for 2019, especially with a new Oklahoma Legislature starting its engine soon.
That said, we realize this may ultimately be the end of our line.
That’s a shame. If TLO is the drunk obnoxious guy yelling jokes and insults from the crowd, Non Doc is the snooty intellectual on stage reciting passages from The Fountainhead at the lectern. Although we have very different styles, tastes and readership numbers, I like having them around. Sure, the website could have a sanctimonious, professorial tone and occasionally mansplained its news coverage, but Tres proved to be a nice addition to the capitol political beat. And who could forget the time they chastised us for telling Derplahoman lawmakers like Ralph Shortey to go fuck themselves? I think it’s one of their most popular articles!
That being said, I can’t say this news is surprising.
Ever since Non Doc was first launched by Andrew Rice during the midst of the digital media boom in 2014, it’s struggled to gain a foothold and connect to a broader audience in the metro area. Although some talented people make it look surprisingly easy, I guess creating and maintaining a popular and profitable digital media publication is more challenging than it looks.
Plus, in early November, the Ogle Mole Network lit up with reports that Non Doc was pursuing new investors and / or a possible acquisition. I decided to play journalist and reach out to Non Doc’s Editor in Chief – William “Tres” Savage III – to confirm the news.
This was our exchange:
Here’s more from their call for investors:
When considering how NonDoc’s financial shoestring affects our work, perhaps it would be best to start with an admission: We wish we could produce a better product. For instance, we wish we (still) had a freelance budget or a staff reporter at all — some way to cover the countless stories we discover but leave untold by our limitations.
We wish we had an additional editor or copy editor, another set of trained eyes to catch errors, consider optics, craft appropriate headlines or fine-tune social media posts. Often when we make a mistake, it is the result of — or at least compounded by — our compressed time and hectic schedules. To that end, we wish we had decent salaries that precluded us from working second and third jobs in the gig economy. We wish we did not have to beg for money just to make payroll, which we each eschewed for one month this fall as revenue dwindled.
Similarly, we recognize that our ability to do these editorial jobs for more than three years has hinged largely on our economic privilege: no car payments; no student loans; no spouses or children. While we survived on meager means running a company that operated from a living room during its first two years, NonDoc’s current revenue picture as a for-profit company does not display long-term viability.
Really?! The current revenue picture as a for-profit company does not display long-term viability??? Where do I sign?! That sounds like a great investment!
Seriously, I know all the doom and gloom stuff about Non Doc’s finances would be revealed in the discovery / vetting process, but why use your filter or funnel to broadcast it like that? Are you trying to lure an investor or make people feel sorry for you? That’s almost as silly as setting an arbitrary month-long deadline to hunt for solutions to your financial problems, and in the process, give any potential investors a negotiating advantage.
Suspending operations is not a decision we take lightly, and we promise we have considered the various options or ideas that might pop into your head while reading this. For instance, some have suggested NonDoc become a nonprofit like two other in-state publications: Oklahoma Watch and The Frontier.
Unfortunately, doing so would jeopardize our primary (though volatile) source of existing revenue: advertising. While generous readers combine to chip in about $900 per month via our non-tax-deductible Writers’ Fund, forming a nonprofit would require us to obtain what those other publications have had: hundreds of thousands of dollars in commitments from affluent individuals and foundations.
Those are all great excuses, but perhaps the biggest roadblock to turning non-profit is that Non Doc has an ownership group that would probably like to recoup their initial investment. I’ve heard from some Ogle Moles that Non Doc is seeking anywhere from $30,000 to $50,000 just to purchase the publication. That doesn’t include the additional capital the website would need to hire more staff, fund payroll, pay bills, etc. I would ask Tres if those numbers are true, but he’d probably just interpret that as an offer (or feeler).
Anyway, as the owner of a small digital media publication, I face some of the same struggles and limitations that’s hampered Non Doc. I also share their aspirations to take things to the next level. I guess the difference is The Lost Ogle has a much larger and broader audience, a strong social media following, and a widely identifiable and recognizable brand. We’ve also navigated (and survived) these treacherous digital media waters without any outside investment for 11+ years.
Before someone buys Non Doc, maybe they should reach out to us?