When Social Entrepreneurship and News Collide

For the informed reader, the days of passive news consumption went out with the 90s/early 2000s. Any regular Internet user knows that the web has dramatically altered how we get news.

Gone are the days when you could wake up to your morning newspaper, give it a good read on the subway and expect to have a decent grasp on the day’s events.

And this is especially true for people in international development, aid and global health. Being plugged into the latest world events and policy decisions are a must, which is why there’s a whole load of folks make a living by getting up at the crack of dawn for this very purpose.

The conundrum in online news — particularly if you’re interested in niche topics, such as humanitarian or global health news — is that the news you want is out there (even if only in small doses), but it can literally take hours to find.

Which is why the DAWNS Digest and similar aggregators, such as UN Wire  (a service of the UN Foundation) and the Kaiser Daily Global Health Report (which I spent several years working on), provide an essential service.

DAWNS is the newcomer in this group. Launched just one month ago, it pulls together a broad range of global news every day. The unique thing about DAWNS is that it responds directly to the needs of professionals in the field who only have access to low bandwidth connections or need to view the information on a mobile device. The emails are also sent out to correspond with the start of your day — regardless of the time zone you’re in.

I recently spoke with Tom Murphy, editor of A View From the Cave, who co-founded DAWNS with Mark Goldberg, the editor of this blog. In the interview, which focused on Murphy’s use of social media, I asked him about DAWNS’ cost, which differentiates it from other news aggregators that are often free.

“We want the barrier to entry for people to sign up for this to be very low,” Murphy said of the low monthly cost of $2.99. “What we’re shooting for is ubiquity and so we hope to have a lot of people who have signed up for it.”

The founders are focusing on volume because they want to generate enough revenue to create a fund to promote humanitarian journalism.

“We certainly feel that in the humanitarian news world, there are often times things that are woefully under-reported,” Murphy said. “The plight of the famine [in East Africa] is pervasive. It’s not necessarily stopping. So it would be great to have people who could continue to be reporting from these areas of the world,” he said of the larger vision for DAWNS.

Will this be a news model of the future? No one can answer that. But I’m looking forward to seeing the first project DAWNS funds.