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2012: What we know now on building public trust, raising money and a free press powered by the people

January 23, 2013 in Blog, Revenue

Journalism Accelerator

Was 2012 prosperous for publishers? The four-part series continues, with this third installment offering key lessons from three well-respected practitioners known for thinking outside the box. Mike Fancher, veteran news business strategist; Lila LaHood, director of operations and development at San Francisco Public Press; and Keith Hammonds, director of Ashoka’s Knowledge Initiative, offer their unique perspectives. Fancher sums it up as such: “News businesses – emerging or legacy, large or small – won’t be relevant and economically viable if journalists don’t feel a personal responsibility to make public engagement a core tenet of their work.” LaHood offers insights from the nonprofit trenches: “We learned that we weren’t giving our supporters enough different opportunities to support our brand of local public-interest journalism.” And Hammond sees the opportunity to act as a changemaker is to “produce content that’s relevant; connect it to mechanisms that help citizens and communities make change; articulate a value proposition and (not least) ask to be paid.” See their contributions below for useful context you can compare your experience against. Check back next week as we offer the fourth and final post in this series, with contributions from Josh Stearns of Free Press, Mark Glaser of PBS Media Shift and Dan Moulthrop of The Civic Commons. Read the rest of this entry →

Was 2012 the year of the prosperous publisher? What we know now

January 2, 2013 in Blog, Revenue

Change Ahead

If 2012 was any indication, 2013 holds great promise for new revenue tracks, new partnerships and adapting to best practices to not just serve, but delight, audiences.

Journalism Accelerator

In early 2012, just about a year ago, we invited a half-dozen people with a range of unique roles in the news production mix, to identify the most crucial challenges facing publishers at that moment in time. No enormous surprise: Money was the top concern. More specifically, a collective sense emerged that publishers could benefit from a roadmap of the many small steps needed to increase and stabilize revenue across the industry.

As 2012 drew to a close, we once more turned to these insightful people (listed to the right), asking each to share what he or she learned over the course of this chapter in the evolving story of journalism. We also asked a number of other leaders across the industry to share what they learned in 2012. You’ll see excerpts in this post, with their full stories offered as a series that will post over the month of January.
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Community Journalism Executive Training: Define your exit to build a legacy

November 9, 2012 in Blog, Education, Revenue

A huge experiment

CJET Map

CJET brought more than thirty community and investigative publishers together for intensive, hands-on business training. Check out presentations and resources that emerged, download useful know-how.

Journalism Accelerator

It felt odd to consider “exit strategy” at the recent Community Journalism Executive Training program, which brought nearly three dozen news organizations to Los Angeles for two days of intense, hands-on work developing specific business strategies and action plans.

After all, the vast majority of organizations attending only opened their doors a few years ago.

But the training, funded by the Knight Foundation, The Patterson Foundation and the McCormick Foundation, hosted by the Knight Digital Media Center and organized by the Investigative News Network, aimed to equip people running startup community and investigative media outlets with the skills and attitude to pull their business-owner hats firmly down on their heads – and wear them all the time.

And that means thinking about exit strategy. Read the rest of this entry →

JA Revisits: Ashoka and The Christian Science Monitor find “resonance”

September 14, 2012 in Blog, Experiments, Revenue

Make Change / Christian Science Monitor

Checking in on an experiment: Ashoka and The Christian Science Monitor co-brand.

Journalism Accelerator

In the rich JA conversations earlier this year on collaboration in the news business, Keith Hammonds, director of Ashoka’s Knowledge Initiative, sketched out a “new sort of collaboration.” Soon after, Ashoka, an institution dedicated to innovative social change, and The Christian Science Monitor, a news organization committed to thoughtful, contextualized coverage, launched the project: a two week trial run of a cooperative effort designed to give Monitor readers the chance to actively respond to stories in ways that might change them. Or possibly the world.

So how did it turn out? Read the rest of this entry →

JA publisher profile: The Hawaii Independent, a profitable co-op “rooted in the community…like the Green Bay Packers.”

August 29, 2012 in Blog, Community, Revenue

About Ikaika Hussey

Ikaika Hussey helped start The Hawaii Independent with a handful of local journalists and activists in 2008. He previously worked in community organizing, and says he “knew a lot of stories” that he felt needed to be told. He says making sure to do sales along with editorial work every single day allowed The Independent to turn a profit last year. He expects another profitable year in 2012.

Journalism Accelerator

The Hawaii Independent started as a standard, albeit small, for-profit corporation five years ago. A handful of local investors put their money into the local news venture built by a group of local journalists and activists, including editor and publisher Ikaika Hussey. But after several years, Hussey went back to those investors and pitched a switch to a cooperative business model for the news organization. The change happened earlier this year; he mentioned the plans during the JA forum on local and niche news sites last February. We called him recently to follow up and learned that The Hawaii Independent now offers both subscriptions and ownership, with different benefits, following international cooperative principles and guided by organizational bylaws.

Hussey is inspired by The Banyan Project, his belief that independent media must be locally owned, and a vision of community contributors building solid journalism. The Hawaii Independent was profitable last year, and Hussey intends to send all member-owners a check at the end of 2012. This interview has been edited for clarity and length. Read the rest of this entry →

JA publisher profile with ProPublica’s Stephen Engelberg: “This may shake out to be a Golden Age of investigative reporting.”

August 10, 2012 in Blog, Community, Craft, Distribution, Education, Experiments, Policy, Revenue, Technology

Stephen Engelberg

ProPublica managing editor Stephen Engelberg at the University of Oregon’s Turnbull Center. Image: Lisa Skube.

Journalism Accelerator

Raising money, gaining audience, having impact. Despite a ten million dollar annual budget, 34 reporters and partnerships with multiple major news organizations, ProPublica faces similar sustainability issues as many startup publishers. ProPublica’s managing editor (set to become editor-in-chief early next year) Stephen Engelberg spoke with a couple dozen journalists at the University of Oregon’s Turnbull Center in Portland this week. Here are his views on some of the major challenges investigative, nonprofit news organizations face today.

Stephen Engelberg had never done any fundraising before becoming second-in-command at ProPublica, the high-profile, nonprofit, investigative news organization set up in 2007. He didn’t have to right away; for the first three years ProPublica received ten million dollars a year from a foundation set up by Herb and Marion Sandler with their earnings from the savings and loan industry. ProPublica’s budget has remained the same, but the Sandler Foundation share fell to half last year. As Engelberg prepares to lead the first online-only news organization to win a Pulitzer Prize, money, branding, the expectations of donors and making an impact are on his mind. Read the rest of this entry →

JA Interview: Fresh ideas for publishers from beyond the usual suspects. The promise of real-time storytelling to up community donation and profitability

July 25, 2012 in Blog, Community, Revenue

AJ LeonAJ Leon, co-founder of the creative marketing company Misfit, Inc., opens up to the possibilities in Kaniche, Malawi.
Courtesy Misfit, Inc.

Journalism Accelerator

Last week, Robert Burns Nixon, CFO of the San Francisco Fashion and Merchants Alliance, highlighted here several fashion industry best practices that might work well in publishing too. For example, getting direct feedback on concepts before going into full production, and holding trademarked events.

For more business insights from beyond the usual suspects, we invited AJ Leon, co-founder of Misfit, Inc. to, as Robert did, read the JA forums on local and niche news held earlier this year and respond. AJ offers insights where he sees promise for publishers to gain greater revenue, deepen connections and capitalize on the power of immediacy. The interview has been edited for clarity and length.

Misfit, Inc., started because it fulfilled a dream. AJ and Melissa Leon wanted to travel. They also wanted to do creative work for causes they support. So AJ left banking and Melissa left teaching. Slowly but steadily, they built a business that develops creative media campaigns all over the world. They are dipping into publishing now too, with a planned e-guide to renting out your home using Air BNB and a new multimedia arts journal. Before offering thoughts on business approaches he’s taken that might be useful to publishers, AJ found plenty to learn in the JA conversations on sustaining local and niche news. Read the rest of this entry →

JA Interview: Are you H&M or couture? Business insight offered from beyond the publishing world

July 18, 2012 in Blog, Revenue

Newspaper Dress

What business tips from the fashion world might be useful to news publishers?
Image: Payam Emrani

Journalism Accelerator

As journalism and publishing continue to ride the wave of upheaval and innovation, what can we learn from people outside our own specialties, whether within the news industry or outside? We asked Robert Burns Nixon, Chief Financial Officer and a member of the board of the San Francisco Fashion and Merchants Alliance, Inc., to read the JA forum on local news publishing and reflect on similar challenges in the fashion world. Nixon dives straight into buzz, build and brand. The interview has been edited for clarity and length.

The San Francisco Fashion and Merchants Alliance (SFFAMA) is a nonprofit providing business and technology education through forums, mentorships and networking for designers, including many small startups. SFFAMA’s trademark event is San Francisco Fashion Week, held each fall, but CFO and board member Robert Burns Nixon is busy year-round. He develops partnerships and promotions for SFFAMA, plus handles the budget, planning and business strategy, which is evolving right along with the organization.

Robert Burns Nixon: We’re free right now, but we have a bunch of different groups (involved) and thousands of members. We’re planning to do a freemium model where you offer incentives; for a yearly membership, an automatic discount for all of our events, or other discounts that apply to partners, or special access to certain things. We’re still waiting for that critical number, whatever it is…say you have 5,000 people total and then you figure that maybe 5% of those may be willing to pay something.

Journalism Accelerator: What’s the value proposition you offer people? When you’re saying “become a member,” what’s in it for them?

RBN: We cap our membership first of all. We offer ongoing technology and fashion workshops. We have panel discussions and we do events where startups pitch, and then we have a whole range of different work functions.

JA: One thing that came up in the JA forum on local news was that community media startups trying to partner with bigger organizations, such as traditional newspapers, can find it difficult to come up with a way that would be mutually beneficial. What do you see in the fashion industry? Read the rest of this entry →

JA Use Case: Five steps to pave the way toward collaborative revenue

June 25, 2012 in Blog, Craft, Distribution, Experiments, Revenue

Collaborative growth: Working together to find your own way to sustainability and scale. Image: Pics of Trees

Journalism Accelerator

The JA/Collab Central forum on collaboration and revenue held earlier this spring surfaced more than two dozen examples of collaboration in action. This post examines one, an investigative report on deportations from the U.S. to Haiti, as a detailed use case of a collaboration yielding a high return.

Originally commissioned by the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting (FCIR) with a grant from The Nation Institute’s Investigative Fund, the project deepened the budding relationship between FCIR and Florida public radio station WLRN. It also provided early experience in content sharing for members of the Investigative News Network. Eventually, more than 30 news organizations, both commercial and nonprofit, published an online or print version of the piece.

This use case outlines a successful collaboration that laid the groundwork for a deeper partnership that included revenue. It shows how partners worked together in different ways, explores how they may do things differently in the future, and offers examples to consider as you evaluate the structure and yield of potential or current collaborations. Read the rest of this entry →

JA’s Collab/Space forum yields resources, examples and emerging practices to support journalism collaborations

May 25, 2012 in Blog, Community, Experiments, Revenue

Monkey and Dog

Together stronger, sharing complementary skills enriches collaborative partnerships.

Journalism Accelerator

One of the best parts about getting professional colleagues together to talk is that everyone brings specific resources and examples to the topic at hand. Sometimes these are familiar to you, but a colleague’s experience offers a fresh perspective. At other times, you may discover details about a resource you’d previously only vaguely heard of, or learn about something you were not aware of at all. At last month’s Collab/Space conference and during the extended conversation on the JA afterward, people offered concrete examples of successful collaborative reporting projects and pointed out tools or tips that helped them along the way. We’ve collected many of them here. Feel free to add to this shared base of knowledge. Happy collaborating!

Are you thinking about a collaborative reporting project and want some examples to show your editor? Would you like to work with an organization outside your own so your joint efforts can have a collectively bigger impact? Do you need tools to make collaborating easier?

Find ideas and inspiration in these examples, models, articles and tools that people cited in the JA conversation on collaboration and revenue.

Collaborative reporting: Story examples
Collaborative relationships: Journalism
Collaborative projects: Cross-industry or outside models
Collaborative resources: Articles and tools

Read the rest of this entry →