Successfully building a culture of philanthropy supportive of local journalism will require alignment among funders, publishers, and civil society groups, a report from the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School and the Lenfest Institute for Journalism finds.
Based on the findings of a working group of stakeholders from news organizations, technology platforms, news-related startups, and the philanthropic sector, the report, Business Models for Local News: A Field Scan (HTML or 52 pages, PDF), outlines five requirements and opportunities for the revitalization of local news: increasing financial investment in news-related startups; growing philanthropic commitments in support of local news; expanding sources of growth capital for existing organizations; improving collaboration among both news organizations and platforms; and placing greater emphasis on diversity, equity, and inclusion.
The report outlines the challenges of, opportunities for, and existing examples of diversifying and strengthening revenue streams, securing growth capital and philanthropic support for mission-driven journalism, talent-building at the enterprise level, and building products that increase revenue and engagement. According to the report, key barriers include a "lack of prepared mind" among potential donors who may not see a free press as a worthy investment and the "lack of capability" among news organizations to fund their own efforts on a sustainable, long-term basis. Success, according to the report, will require creating and negotiating relationships and alignment among an informed and engaged set of philanthropists, funders, and donors; publishers with viable news products; and civil society stakeholders, including local officials.
"As the legacy business model for local news collapses under the weight of reduced revenue, closures, and layoffs...there are many reasons to be optimistic about what the future holds," said Shorenstein Center director Nicco Mele. "The ideas laid out in this report come from some of the brightest minds working at the intersection of technology, business, and journalism. We are eager to share these findings and facilitate a greater discussion about what can be done to help reinvent business models for local news."
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