Many journalists dream of launching their own nonprofit digital news outlets so they can tell untold stories, investigate wrongdoing and give their communities the coverage they deserve.
But the key to their success may have as much to do with business skills and innovation as it does great content, a new report from John S. and James L. Knight Foundation has found.
The report, “Getting Local: How Nonprofit News Ventures Seek Sustainability”, examined what several of the digital age's best-known American experiments in community journalism are doing to survive and thrive. The authors, Mayur Patel and Michele McLellan, found three keys ingredients for success in this rapidly evolving media landscape:
- A business development strategy and the capacity to execute it.
Nonprofit news leaders must think like business people and seek ways to make money to support their journalism. Foundations often fund journalism startups, but philanthropic support "will likely diminish over time and needs be supplemented with new sources, such as memberships, advertising, sponsorships, or events," the authors write.
- A high level of audience focus and innovative approaches to build community engagement.
News organizations must analyze user data to understand their audience and experiment with ways to engage the community.
- Technological capacity to support and track engagement.
News outlets cannot afford to skimp on technology. Developing innovative interactive features and highly searchable public databases can drive deeper audience engagement.