Canadian Startup Plans to Launch 50 News Outlets by 2023


Overstory Media Group (OMG), a startup media group that operates newsletter-based journalism outlets in British Columbia, has announced plans to hire 250 new journalists and launch 50 new outlets by 2023.

In 2019, tech entrepreneur Andrew Wilkinson launched Capital Daily, a daily local newsletter in his hometown of Victoria, B.C. Later, Farhan Mohamed, who previously served as editor-in-chief and co-owner of the online news site Daily Hive, joined Wilkinson, and the two established OMG. The media group launched with 10 outlets (Capital Daily serves as its flagship) and with more than 30 full-time staff members, said Mohamed.

OMG is looking to build in many communities in and outside of Canada. At press time, their most recent launch was in Calgary (called Calgary Citizen). However, they are not limiting themselves to communities defined by just region; they are also interested in communities characterized by industry or interests.

OMG will provide salaries, benefits, and legal support for journalists. As for the business model, Mohamed explained the outlets will use the advertising model initially, but eventually, they will add a membership revenue stream too.

He also shared that the number of journalists will be divided among the outlets as needed. Some outlets may need more journalists than others, he said. OMG seeks both experienced journalists that know the communities as well as journalists new to the industry.

“Some of these outlets could become the publication of record in their communities. That’s one of the goals that we have with almost all of them,” Mohamed said. “We want to become the go-to in our communities so that no matter where you live, where you work or what sort of things you’re interested in, you can really become the central player.”

Like the U.S. news media industry, the media in Canada has also suffered mass layoffs and newspaper closures in recent years. According to The Guardian, 36 community newspapers were shut down around Canada in 2017—the largest mass closure in the country. The coronavirus pandemic also brought more closures.

So, why launch this initiative now?

“We’re trying to show people that we’re serious, and quality journalism and community building actually takes time,” Mohamed said. “We’re not just here for the next two, three years. We’re here to build something that’s going be around for decades to come, and it doesn’t happen overnight.”

Many people have asked Mohamed about the longevity of newsletters. His counterpoint: “We could question the longevity of almost anything.” The better question, he said, is “What value is your product or your service providing to people?”

“For us, the newsletters are the focal point, it’s the best way that we can interact and engage directly with our readers,” Mohamed said. “It’s our way to really cultivate the audience and bring them in and say we’re talking directly to you.”

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