There have been countless examples in recent years of nonprofit news organizations launching, from ProPublica to the Texas Tribune. But there are few examples of struggling news outlets converting to nonprofit status or being purchased by nonprofits. Mother Jones publisher Steve Katz explores why this strategy may work for a chain of local papers in California:
Managing local papers for short-term profit is the end of local newspapers. Managing local newspapers for the long run, based on deeper engagement with the local community, is the future of local journalism.
Like Mother Jones, CIR is a nonprofit organization, but with a sharp eye for the need to build out a dynamic business model. With increasingly diverse revenue streams, CIR is looking more and more like the kind of organization that MoJo’s been for a while — a hybrid, with a mix of earned (circulation, ads, syndication, consulting, events, etc.) revenue and philanthropic revenue.
This kind of economic model allows you to manage for the long run, to build an institution and a community of interest among people who care about the work — that’s why they’d give dollars to it. When this happens, a journalism outfit can begin to attract advertisers who want to get their stuff in front of a motivated audience who trust the journalism brand. No, it’s not easy. Yes, it can work.