To achieve sustainability, news ventures must do more than produce high-quality reporting and receive generous foundation support, according to a report released by the Knight Foundation October 18, 2011.
A good digital business isn’t one-sided, and if news organizations want to sustain themselves, they have to take that into consideration.
The study focused on nonprofit, geographically based publications with modest sized professional staffs and found that none of the sites are sustainable, yet some best practices are apparent.
3 Ingredients for Success
- Experimentation with different sources of revenue. Heavy reliance on foundation grants and large donations may create vulnerability in the long term. The Chi-Town Daily, which relied almost exclusively on foundation funding, folded in 2009.
- High level of engagement–online and offline–using innovative approaches. It’s important to determine a specific audience and to demonstrate the impact on social life. For example, MinnPost has an annual political roast and a “You Fix the Budget Deficit” interactive that drew 10,000 visitors.
- Technology to support and track engagement. Rather than only hiring more reporters and editors, technologists, development professionals and engagement specialists must be brought on as well.
The study also commends the sites for experiments with content partnerships and the exploration of mobile apps and social media features.
Publications included in the report: the Bay Citizen, Crosscut (of Seattle), MinnPost, New Haven Independent, St. Louis Beacon, Texas Tribune and Voice of San Diego.
The full report can be seen on the Knight Foundation website.