Nonprofit Journalism: Models of non-commercial journalism online and their sustainability challenge

Scott Lewis, CEO, Voice of San Diego– Voice of San Diego launched right before YouTube. “We set the bar for them,” Lewis said.

– We now live in a personalized news world. We can interact with whatever we want to get the information we need whenever and wherever we are.

– Newspaper comes to you. TV comes to you. The internet, however, asks you to go to its sources. But now, it’s all coming back to you.

– With the bundled model, traditional news sources compiled all the information you wanted and gave it to you in one product. So, we were asking a newspaper to perform journalism, photography, design, advertising, and many other things all at once.

– With the internet, content became unbundled. But still, you had to go to it, and it was too much. This brought the rise of aggregators, people you could trust to ‘filter’ the news for you. People like Drudge or Huffington Post.

– What we’re learning from Twitter is that people are now constructing their own information stream. Rather than unsubscribe from a newspaper, they can punish a publisher by rejecting them from their personalized news stream.

– The challenge for producers is to become something that people want to put in their personal information bundle. They have to decide who the target audience is.

– You cannot duplicate, because consumers will punish duplicators. You have to be either better or different.

– The mission of Voice of San Diego is to deliver quality investigative journalism for the San Diego area and increase civic participation by giving residents the knowledge and in-depth analysis necessary to become advocates for good government and social progress.

– Early on, Voice of San Diego made a decision not to do anything unless no one else was covering it or they could do it better. If a fire in San Diego drew 40-something reporters, they had to decide not to cover it.

– To gain revenue, Voice of San Diego generates loyalty and passion amongst its users and philanthropists, builds corporate memberships, sells and markets content services and contains costs by not innovating, but rather incorporating.

– The assumption is that 10% of users will donate.

– With the local NBC affiliate, Global Voices has partnered and produces two segments a week: “San Diego Explained” and “San Diego Fact Check.”

Jim O’Shea, co-founder and editor, Chicago News Cooperative

– “I’m a journalist, so I’m not going to give a speech, I’m going to tell a story. That’s what journalists do.”

– Positive results with the number of readers and ad revenue are on their way up for the Chicago News Cooperative.

– The news is in our hands.

Evan Smith, CEO and editor, Texas Tribune

– “As a non-profit, we’re not reselling eyeballs to other people.”

– The Texas Tribune was built around four challenges: 1) a decline in coverage of statewide issues: fewer papers, fewer people, fewer pages and bigger problems; 2) a decline in engagement: low voter turnout and a generation gap; 3) an increase in partisanship: politics is more divisive and more of the media is now an echo chamber; 4) the for-profit model won’t pay for public journalism: there are structural problems in the media economy, and “serious” content can’t be monetized

– 25 weeks in, the Texas Tribune has had more than 3.8 million page views, more than one million visits from 190 countries and 1,100 Texas cities and towns.

– 40% of the Tribune’s traffic is from outside Texas. The remaining 60% is one-third from Austin, one-third other big Texas cities and one-third the rest of Texas.

– The Tribune site has seen 583,000 unique visitors, opposed to the prediction that it would be 150,000 by the end of 2010.

– The data pages of the Tribune are getting many more visitors than the narrative journalistic pieces.

– The company raised more than $4 million in 2009 and has already raised more than $720,000 in 2010.

– The company has received a Google grant, a donation from a company to go toward energy reporting and more from a law firm.

– The Tribune’s “secrets:” swimming in the deep end of the talent pool (“we only hire superheroes with superpowers”), using data as a journalism, using events as journalism, exercising revenue promiscuity, content partnership sluttiness, the Law of Popeye: we am what we am. “We are about public service journalism, not Tiger Woods text messages, not movie reviews.”

Matt Thompson, editorial product manager, Project Argo, National Public Radio

– “I’m the editorial project manager of a mythical project named after a mythical ship, most of whose inhabitants died, so expectations are probably a bit low.”

– When you give someone a basic foundation and understanding of a story, they start to want more information about that story constantly.

– There’s so much about the model of “relationship journalism” that still isn’t known. But there’s still time to experiment with it and develop it.

– The goal is to create digital experiences that people actually love as much as they love public radio.