Digital Journalism: Sustainability & Business Models

The traditional business models for journalism have collapsed, and most of the current revenue models in the industry are unsustainable. Despite their digital growth, 80 to 90 percent of newspaper revenues still come from print—even after the steep decline of print advertising and circulation and almost 20 years of investment in digital media. As traditional newsrooms shrink and even disappear, the information landscape for Americans is bleak. A recent Pew study shows that 21 states do not have a single local daily newspaper with its own dedicated congressional correspondent.

To address this crisis, the Shorenstein Center produces original research on sustainable business models for the digital age, and works closely with legacy and emerging news organizations to put the theories into practice—creating a cycle of research, implementation, and learning.

Single Subject News Project

In October 2017 the Center launched its Single Subject News Project to provide news outlets with training and best practices on how to find, build, and engage audiences. The project has been working with a cohort of nine newsrooms. The War Horse, The Marshall Project, The Trace, Chalkbeat, and The Hechinger Report cover veteran’s issues, criminal justice, gun violence, local education news, and innovation and inequality in education, respectively. The cohort also includes ProPublica, The Texas Tribune, Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting, and The Center for Public Integrity, as investigative and nonprofit models with broader coverage areas.

During the first phase of the project, researchers gathered metrics from participating news outlets and assessed audience development plans, staffing, technology, and funding. As of spring 2018, the outlets are working on a performance challenge and will report back on progress. By summer 2018, the Shorenstein Center will act upon these learnings to develop best practice documentation, to be released by summer 2019. Thank you to the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation for supporting this project.

Follow the Single Subject News Project on Medium.

Research

Funding Journalism, Finding Innovation: Success Stories and Ideas for Creative, Sustainable Partnerships
June 20, 2018
Reported and edited by: Dwight Knell, former consultant, Shorenstein Center; Nina Sachdev, Communications Director, Media Impact Funders; Jessica Clark, Research Director, Media Impact Funders

Funding the News: Foundations and Nonprofit Media
June 18, 2018
By Matthew Nisbet, Professor, John Wihbey, Assistant Professor, Silje Kristiansen, Post-doctoral Associate & Aleszu Bajak, Lecturer at Northeastern University

Playbook for Launching a Local, Nonprofit News Outlet
June 12, 2018
By Adam Fisher, MPP student, Harvard Kennedy School and Adam B. Giorgi, MPP student, Harvard Kennedy School

Case Study of VTDigger: A Rising Star In Nonprofit News
May 21, 2018
By Tim Griggs, Institute for Nonprofit News

Using Data Science Tools for Email Audience Analysis: A Research Guide
October 18, 2017
By Jacque Boltik, Data Science Consultant and Founder, Kingrail Consulting and Nicco Mele, Director, Shorenstein Center