Since 2017, I’ve met with over 300 newsrooms to explore how to help them scale their audience and revenue goals.
The line “We take a holistic approach to reader revenue” has rolled off my tongue countless times. But what exactly does that mean? It means removing the barriers that typically stand between the business and editorial sides of the newsroom. It means aligning the entire organization around a shared understanding of priorities and stakes. It means we all play a role in reaching our goals.
Over the years, I’ve asked myself what journalism could look like if the entire industry took this holistic approach. What could we accomplish if we all aligned around a shared set of priorities? I have also seen a certain type of discourse play out on social media, on listservs, and at conferences, typically about who is getting funding and who is not. I get it. The industry is highly competitive with a strong independent streak, and funders can be fickle — and this can have the effect of pitting people against each other. Amid this, we lose sight of what’s really on the line — the communities that we serve, our strained talent pipelines, our culture, and our democracy.
Over the past five years, I’ve watched reader revenue (membership) and audience development go from being nice-to-haves to table stakes for many newsrooms. Similarly, in 2023, we’ll see news organizations adopt and embrace shared values as the way to succeed in the face of the industry’s collapse. Organizations won’t view these values as nice-to-haves, but essential to the future.
We can already look toward leaders that are working in collaboration to advance the sector together. In Chicago, 60+ news outlets joined forces to create the Chicago Independent Media Alliance and adopt a “lift-all-boats-model.” On #GivingTuesday, Enlace Latino, Documented NY and El Tímpano amplified each other’s fundraising campaigns. The Diversity Pledge Institute is rising to solve problems with people and culture that cannot wait any longer. And organizations like News Revenue Hub, the Institute for Nonprofit News, and LION Publishers are always collaborating to curate, share knowledge, and do real work to help new business models succeed.
This type of coordination is not just a win for newsrooms, but the communities they ultimately serve. If we don’t stand for communities, then what are we here for?
Christina Shih was SVP of revenue at the News Revenue Hub and an MBA candidate at UC San Diego.