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The Journalism Accelerator’s (JA’s) blog reports on a broad range of experiments unfolding in the field. Evolving daily, news and community publishers across journalism networks share much common ground, but have unique brands and market challenges. Posting content on the beat of news, we’re excited by the passion of publishers and hope to document some of the creative ways the business of news continues to re-imagine itself. The blog offers a range of feature content, much of it our reporting out to you what we’re learning from our experimentation across the JA. We think of the blog, related resources and featured items as compost that we hope helps fuel experiments, cross pollinating innovation and emerging practices with the wisdom of the field to seed new ideas.

JA forum on revenue and collaboration: Seasoned perspective illuminates possibility

About Trevor Aaronson

Trevor AaronsonTrevor Aaronson co-founded the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting to “expose corruption, waste and miscarriages of justice” around the Sunshine State. Up and running since 2010, FCIR has collaborated on stories with public radio stations and many Florida newspapers, including Spanish language media. FCIR also provides data analysis both on collaborative projects and as a fee-based service.

About Michael Stoll

Michael StollMichael Stoll is executive director of San Francisco Public Press, a startup nonprofit print and web news service for the Bay area aiming to “fill the void of hard-hitting accountability reporting that’s been lost with the downsizing of the commercial press.” Built on deliberate collaboration for content and distribution among multiple journalism organizations, the Public Press doesn’t accept advertising, but is seeking to create a replicable, sustainable nonprofit business model.

Journalism Accelerator

Impact, depth, and revenue. All are clearly potential benefits of collaboration in journalism. Tuesday on the JA / CollabSpace conversation on collaboration and revenue we dug into how, when and why to collaborate. Michael Stoll of San Francisco Public Press and Trevor Aaronson of the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting shared their stories about various joint journalism efforts they’ve been part of. Some increased revenue, some didn’t aim to, some were “cost-positive” in the words of Michael Stoll. It’s an in-depth conversation within the still-continuing larger discussion, on how collaboration could increase revenue in journalism. Later Keith Hammonds, director of Ashoka’s News & Knowledge Initiative, offered how-tos and examples of collaborations structured with revenue in mind. Michael Skoler, VP of digital for Public Radio International, wrapped up the chat series, imagining a wealth of ways to integrate collaboration and revenue. 

Trevor summed it up right off the bat. “We all want to do better journalism, and collaboration is a great way to increase the quality and distribution of our reporting,” he said. “But FCIR is a business, and we view collaboration as a business relationship.”

So what does that mean on a practical level? For starters, he says, ask yourself how your organization would benefit from a potential collaboration. Both Michael and Trevor have leveraged working with other news organizations to win grants and to gain audience. Michael in particular points to the cost-saving opportunities of bringing the skills of reporters from multiple organizations together to cover one major story. Even though, as many reporters and publishers know, collaborations can mean a lot more work.

As Tuesday’s live conversation and the entire thread reveals, the question of collaboration leading to revenue is complicated by the fact that journalism is often mission driven. But Trevor points to projects taking collaboration large scale, and Michael Stoll calls on public broadcasting to expand its own coverage by collaborating with local news startups. He also suggests that trading skills and content benefits all partners in many situations, but well funded collaboration partners can – perhaps should – help others “keep the lights on”.

You are welcome to add your own stories of collaboration or comments anywhere in this thread. Also check out our other live chats during this forum: Keith Hammonds, director of Ashoka’s News & Knowledge Initiative and former executive editor of Fast Company shared insights; based on both his past experience at the helm of a for-profit magazine and his current work supporting collaborative news and information projects that contribute to social good. And Michael Skoler, Public Radio International’s Vice President for Digital shared details of a major collaboration he’s in the middle of right now, as well as his past work coordinating the work of multiple public radio stations, developing games, and more.

Other posts in this JA series on collaboration include: Use case, the nuanced story behind the story of one successful collaboration. Resources, examples and practices to increase your yield from collaborative journalism. Costs v. benefits: What to consider as you team up. Plus the forum itself, and as captured with Storify.

Storify adds social dimension to live forum: Can collaboration in journalism increase revenue?

JA Storify

The Collab / Space 2012 event unfolded on the JA in an online conversation. Our storify thread captures its essence.

Journalism Accelerator


The extended conversation with live outreach exploring collaboration and revenue wrapped up at the end of April. Some highlights: examples from the trenches of small startups, the view from a highly collaborative foundation, exploration of the up and downsides of working with other news organizations, emerging thinking about framing consumer rights as directly correlated to accurate news, and a debate over whether journalistic collaboration even SHOULD aim to increase revenue. The discussion thread includes three live chats: Co-founder of the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting Trevor Aaronson and executive director of San Francisco Public Press Michael Stoll compared their experiencesKeith Hammonds of Ashoka’s News & Knowledge Initiative offered how-tos and examples of collaborations structured with revenue in mind and Michael Skoler, VP of digital for Public Radio International provided a wealth of ideas on to integrate collaboration and revenue. Read the entire thread here or take a shortcut with our Storify thread for an overview of the highlights. (more…)

The JA and Collab/Space 2012 test a new way of extending the conversation

Journalism Accelerator

When you invest time in a professional conference, the experience of connecting with others can be deeply energizing, leaving you inspired by ideas you hope to explore and people you intend to follow up with. But back in the daily grind we face familiar demands, accountabilities and our regular routine. The great energy and good intentions often dissipate into the ether. How to keep the momentum from fading? Anti-ether – aka the continued conversation that the JA, MediaShift’s Collaboration Central and the Investigative Reporting Program at UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism are testing. We’ll expand the conversation that starts this week in a room in California to a JA online forum for deeper exploration over the next couple of weeks. (more…)

Easy to use index: Find emerging practices, publisher techniques and revenue forum how-to tips

Journalism Accelerator

Publishers taking part in the recent JA forums on increasing revenue to news sites created a dynamic conversation. And since it was on JA’s forum platform designed with a shelf life, all that shared knowledge is still available for you. Both threads – on local and on niche news sites – generated around 300 comments, with nearly 50 participants over the couple day run. The threads are well worth a read. Here we have organized and indexed much of the conversation to surface the richness of these ideas, insights and hard earned experience so it’s easy for you to peruse by topic.

Read what you need now; come back when you are looking for something else. And remember, one of the greatest resources here is the people who were involved. Just click on anyone’s name to find out more about that person, including how to connect.

The aim of our double-header forum was to create a record of some of the knowledge that news publishers have built up, many working several years in a disrupted market. The focus: how to make money in the new world of news. We divided the two-day conversation into two streams, local news and niche news sites. If any consensus emerged, it is this: Know your audience first. Then figure out which of the many possible sources of revenue works to engage them. (more…)

Part 1: Emerging practices from revenue forum bundle local and niche publisher secrets for success

Emerging practices across revenue streams

Sustainable Journalism Forum -- Visit Page for Day 2

Check out some of the participants who joined in to share their take. The sum of the parts offered in this emerging practices module surfacing over two days of top notch conversation.

Click on a headline to see the comment in context of the full conversation. Want to see more comments from a particular participant, see a person’s website, or follow them on Twitter? Each name links you to that person’s JA profile, with background info, expertise and ways to connect.

Also check out How-tos of Business Basics, culled from the same two-day forum, Philosophical Discussions in the thread and Quoteable Moments for a chuckle or a moment of inspiration.

Revenue streams topic index

Advertising: Beyond the basics

Mix ads with other
We pursue (1) Advertising – it’s the gateway for small business (2) Sponsorships – medium companies and organizations can sponsor entire content channels such as Environment; (3) Ancillary business services, principally photography and websites (two things we’re already doing to publish the news site). Key insight: one revenue stream alone will not support your hyperlocal. – Hal Goodtree, Cary Citizen (more…)

Part 2: How-tos from revenue forum bundle local and niche publisher tactics for sustainability

Sustainable Journalism Forum -- Visit page for day 1

Check out some of the participants who joined in to share their take. The sum of the parts offered in this how-to module surfacing over two days of top notch conversation.

How-tos of basic business practices

Does managing a sales staff stretch your comfort zone? What are all the different products you offer? How much do you pay for paper clips? The content here distilled from the recent JA forum on increasing revenue, where publishers running local and niche news sites shared what they’ve learned about being small business owners.

Click on a headline to see the comment in context of the full conversation. Want to see more comments from a particular participant, see a person’s website, or follow them on Twitter? Each name links you to that person’s JA profile, with background info, expertise and ways to connect.

You might also enjoy Emerging Practices around a range of revenue options from advertising to underwriting. Philosophical Discussions surfaces deep thinking in the thread and Quoteable Moments offers smart one liners capturing some of the sentiments of publishing in this disruptive time.

How-tos topic index

Business models | Tracking demographics | Finding good freelancers | Doing or managing sales | Staying sane | Saving money | Selling new ideas

Part 3: Memorable quotes from revenue forum reveal perspective and promise

Quotable Moments

Quick takes, capturing earned insight from publishers day-to-day discoveries shared in the JA’s two-day forum on increasing revenue. Wise quotes from these experienced folks, to inspire a conversation or words worthy of taping on your office wall. Want to respond? Click on the first few words to read the full comment in context, patiently allowing the page to render and deliver you in line, on point.

To free the conversation up to evolve over time, the forums remain open, so you can add your thoughts to the comment thread as the topics tackled continue to unfold. Or if you would rather go direct to a dialogue. Find background and ways to connect with any of these publishers. Just click on a name and jump to that person’s JA profile. You might also want to check out Emerging Practices around a range of revenue-accekerating options from advertising to underwriting, How-Tos of Basic Business Practices, or Philosophical Discussions, all distilled out of the two-day JA revenue forum. (more…)

JA sustainability forum deconstructed: Publishers dish revenue models, tactics and cautions

Journalism AcceleratorYou’re starting a news site to fill a community need. Or you’ve been running one for years; now you want to stabilize income, maybe expand. The recent double-header JA forum on increasing revenue to news sites aimed to capture and share the invaluable running-a-business know-how that news publishers create through their work every day.

The two-day conversation discussed first the needs of local, then of niche news sites. Here we distill both rich comment threads to showcase publisher experiences and emerging best business practices in three key areas: partnerships, advertising, and other sources of revenue.

A hat tip to Cary Citizen publisher Hal Goodtree for this pointed forum takeaway: “One revenue stream alone will not support your hyperlocal.” Seems obvious, maybe. But how do you get to seven different revenue streams, like Oakland Local? Or develop a reputation for training that pays your investigative reporting bills? Or use social media consulting to bring in ad revenue?

A recent survey of Investigative News Network and Block by Block members found that publishers put sixty percent of their budgets toward journalism and less than twenty percent to generating revenue. “That mix does not bode well for creating financial stability,” writes Janet Coats, manager of The Patterson Foundation’s New Media Journalism Initiative. (Full disclosure: The JA receives TPF support.) So what does?

The ideas and experiences shared over two days of intense conversation in the recent JA forum on increasing revenue offer many insights into building financial stability. The takeaways fit into three overarching themes, each central to business success: partnerships, advertising and non-ad sources of revenue. Dig into what interests you now, come back later for more. The conversation threads also remain open discover more insights and add your experience. (more…)

Many ways to listen: Takeaways from my time at the JA

Denise Cheng at Brooklyn Bureau Launch Party

Denise (middle) with CUNY colleagues and other friends at a launch party for The Brooklyn Bureau. Photo by Adi Talwar; courtesy of City Limits

Last November, I moved from The Rapidian, where I served as citizen journalism coordinator, to become the research and outreach editor for the Journalism Accelerator. Months later, I’m shifting again, making a little more room on my plate to maximize another commitment: CUNY’s Tow-Knight Entrepreneurial Journalism Program.

I started with CUNY’s journalism incubator last month, seeking to develop a more sophisticated vocabulary and framework to think about the business of journalism. My “first family,” as JA founder Lisa Skube, likes to put it, is the Block by Block community. My greatest interests are in outlets that make a local impact and empower people by inviting public participation in media creation. One question dominating my mind is how to build a financial backbone so these outlets thrive and communities are well served.

I take my leave from the JA in hopes that I’ll begin to piece together that answer for myself through a semester at CUNY’s Journalism School.

Meanwhile, coming from an on-the-go outlet with scant staff resources (sound familiar? You must be with a hyperlocal!), I’ve added to my toolbox by being at the JA. I’d like to share two tidbits I’ve learned that may be helpful to anyone in publishing. (more…)

Niche news publishing: “No one shoe fits all.”

Journalism Accelerator

Little shoe big foot -- Journalism Accelerator Forum

Image credit: Lars Christensen - Fotolia

Go deep, not wide, in content and audience. That’s my quick overall takeaway from today, Day Two of our forum on sustainable journalism. Today’s conversation focused on particular opportunities for niche sites.

Let’s start with this question, and a thanks to the Oregonian News Network’s Cornelius Swart for posing it:

Who if any have done or understood the demographics of their audience before they launched their projects. Of those out there in the niche world, who has done a media audit since they launched? Are people just pricing products and seeing if they take off? Do people have a sense of audience/customer base in terms of income and consumer habits/values?”

That’s still open to answer on the forum threadBased on comments throughout the conversation, niche news sites have particular opportunities to build tight relationships with their audiences – and that is key to bringing in revenue. Rusty Coats put it this way: To monetize deep content, own the master narrative.

That is, become the voice of authority (through your coverage, of course) on a subject matter – and work diligently to hone that subject matter so that it isn’t too horizontal. Deep coverage is vertical. Readers and underwriters appreciate the focus – and that helps weed out who is NOT your audience or underwriter community.” (more…)

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