News Startups Guide


to the News Frontier Database

January 4, 2010

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

The News Frontier Database is a searchable, living, and ongoing documentation of digital news outlets across the country. Featuring originally reported profiles and extensive data sets on each outlet, the NFDB is a tool for those who study or pursue online journalism, a window into that world for the uninitiated, and, like any journalistic product, a means by which to shed light on an important topic. We plan to build the NFDB into the most comprehensive resource of its kind.

We’re launching with profiles of fifty prominent digital news sites. The makeup of this list is by no means comprehensive, but there’s ambitious journalism (and philanthropy, and capitalism) represented throughout, and we hope that each entry helps to give a clearer understanding of the outlet in question–but also, more broadly, a clearer picture of web journalism as a whole. Featured in this initial package are household names like Politico and The Huffington Post, but you’ll also encounter sites that are lesser known outside of niche markets–like IGN, the Internet’s definitive video game press; or Streetsblog, a journalism/advocacy hybrid covering transportation issues; or DoD Buzz, a one-man show reporting on the Pentagon. Though most of the sites included so far cater to a national audience, we’ve also profiled some better-established examples of regional operations, from NJ Spotlight to the Alaska Dispatch, MinnPost to

The NFDB’s launch is just that–a beginning. Everything from our web design to the inclusion criteria (discussed in more detail below) is meant to create a product that is open ended, flexible, and constantly evolving–attributes that reflect today’s media landscape. We plan to continuously add to the database in the coming months. Though we’ll profile more national outlets, the bulk of the database will eventually be made up of the many local operations that continue to sprout up throughout the country.

For those ready to get started, you can find the NFDB’s 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. 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: Christopher Benz, David Downs, Sean Gandert, Kathy Gilsinan, Colin Fleming, Mike Madden, Brett Norman

Research Assistants: Alex Fekula, Dohini Patel, Justin Yang