Former AOL News head Lewis Dvorkin has pulled the curtain back on his new online news and community venture True/Slant, which officially launches in beta form on June 8.
The concept of True/Slant is to provide a forum for journalists, academics and other experts to produce alternative content, promote their own work and communicate directly with readers. The startup has signed on close to 100 contributors, up from 65 when the site’s alpha mode rolled out a few months ago—including former CNN anchor Miles O’Brien, Rolling Stone political correspondent Matt Taibbi, former Newsweek author Michael Hastings and New York Times reporter Viv Bernstein.
Each True/Slant contributor maintains his or her own page on the site, where they can report news; blog; link to their own publications or documents; and recommend other stories or videos to the site’s readers. The site’s community can then comment on these contributors’ stories or blog entries, and in some cases initiate a back and forth dialogue between author and reader.
The thinking behind the site, which is being funded by Forbes Media and Fuse Capital (formerly Velocity Interactive Group), is that in this era of blogs, Digg, search and hyperlinks, journalists—on top of being good writers and reporters–need to be their own marketers. “We want to turn contributors into their own brands,” said Dvorkin. Some journalists are naturals at this sort of self promotion, said Dvorkin, while the site provides tools and assistance to those contributors who are not.
Other True/Slant contributors include BBC correspondent Katty Kay, ABCNews correspondent Claire Shipman and New York Post columnist Ryan Sager.
On the advertising front, while the site does sell traditional display ads and sponsored links, the vision is for brands to establish their own True/Slant pages, on which they can publish product or lifestyle information and similarly engage in a dialogue with customers. “We want brands to do the same thing as our contributors,” said Dvorkin. “They can publish content and manage a community. They are in an environment where there is an expectation of content being produced. Brands need a capacity to talk in this forum.”