Editor’s note: On March 1, 2012, the News Frontier Database was renamed “CJR’s Guide to Online News Startups.”

We’re pleased to announce the latest upgrade of the News Frontier Database—now with more local news. We launched in January with originally reported profiles of (and extensive data sets on) fifty prominent news startups across the country—many of them national sites, but a number of local operations as well. Fifty sites was a humble start for what we intend to build into the country’s most comprehensive resource on digital journalism operations, but we said we’d be growing, and we have been. We’ve been adding new sites week to week, and are pleased to announce that we’ve just added a batch of forty new sites. All of the sites in this latest installment are devoted to local news.

When we launched, we promised that “the bulk of the database will eventually be made up of the many local operations that continue to sprout up throughout the country.” Well, they’ve continued to sprout, and the NFDB now includes profiles of sites in most of the fifty states—no, we didn’t forget D.C. We’ll continue to add more in the coming days. We’ve interviewed web journalists in forty-eight states so far. The holdouts? The rogue states of North Dakota and Mississippi. If you run a news site in either of those states, or any other state for that matter, you should definitely get in touch via this survey form. Alternatively, if you’d like to recommend a site for inclusion you can do so by emailing us here.

All this is exciting to us, but we’re just getting started. Although we’re now happily north of 100 entries, the NFDB is still in beta, and will be forever in the sense that we’re continuingly adding sites with no intention of stopping. (When the time comes, we’ll also be updating the information in existing entries.) The current makeup of the NFDB is by no means comprehensive. There are still many, many worthy operations to profile, and we hope that the folks in charge of those news sites will help us help the world learn about their operation by submitting, you guessed it, this survey form.

For those ready to start exploring the NFDB, you can find the homepage here, or browse an alphabetized list of every site currently included here. Web journalists impatient for their site to join the NFDB’s ranks can start that process here. The welcome page for our original launch package can be found here. For the hardcore user, criteria for sites to be included in the database are discussed below.

Thanks for visiting. We look forward to hearing what you think.


We’re glad to see journalism flowering online in many forms, but we’ve decided to limit the makeup of this database to news organizations that fit the following criteria. (We hope that a discussion of the rightness of this decision can take place in the comments section below.)

(1) Digital news sites included in the NFDB should be primarily devoted to original reporting and content production.

(2) With rare exceptions, the outlet should have at least one full-time employee.

(3) The digital news site should be something other than the web arm of a legacy media entity. (There’s no doubt that some of the most important online journalism is being produced by the websites of newspapers and other legacy media, but this database is devoted to a new kind of publication.)

(4) The digital news site should be making a serious effort to sustain its work financially, whether that be through advertising, grants, or other revenue sources. (The language and spirit of this last criterion borrow from the work of Michele McLellan.)


Project Manager: Michael Meyer

Web Development & Strategy: Dean Pajevic, Jennifer Braun, Michael Murphy

Contributors: Chris Benz, Connor Boals, Brendan Buhler, Daniel Denvir, Dylan DePice, David Downs, Sam Eifling, Colin Fleming, Sean Gandert, Sara Germano, Kathy Gilsinan, Daniel Luzer, Mike Madden, Joel Meares, Brett Norman, Nick Novak, Isaac Olson, Victoria Rau, Armin Rosen, Georgia Schoonmaker, Arvin Temkar

Research Assistants: Alex Fekula, Dohini Patel, Justin Yang