HOME
          
LATEST STORY
The newsonomics of MLB’s pioneering mobile experience
ABOUT                    SUBSCRIBE
Jan. 25, 2010, 3:39 p.m.

How two nonprofits saw the path to sustainability in 2009

It’s annual report time, and our friends Joel Kramer at MinnPost and John Thornton at Texas Tribune each put out their year-in-review posts this afternoon. (Thornton, who launched in November, called it his 12-week report, but whatever.) There’s a lot to consider beyond just numbers.

While each has had to focus on his own shop’s finances in a tight economy, each also has done a service in showing what a path to sustainability looks like — the hard work of building an advertising base, corporate sponsorships and grassroots support.

Just as importantly, each has explained his publication’s progress in a way that funders and readers can understand. There’s a lot of confusion and misunderstanding out there, but Joel and John show how the nonprofit model is well suited to foster the kind of financial stability and support for newsrooms that we once took for granted at newspapers.

Thornton, a venture capitalist, put it this way:

You may be thinking: “A business? I thought the Tribune was a non-profit.” True enough. But we must behave like a business if we hope to achieve our mission of maximizing the public good we produce. … We will continue to seek large contributions from wealthy families and foundations, but the right way to think of this is truly as equity capital rather than revenue. In that sense, we’re no different than a startup that my firm would fund. Such a venture seeks to raise enough equity capital to sustain it until its revenue and expense lines cross. The more we raise, the longer we have to establish a sustainable business model.

Kramer offered a similar view in his post:

[We] generated a substantial increase in our revenues, a truly impressive result in light of economic conditions:

— Revenue from advertising and sponsorship rose from $160,000 in 2008 to $217,000 in 2009.

— Revenue from individual donors and from MinnRoast rose from $356,000 to $458,000. (This excludes from the 2008 total the last payment on one of our 2007 founder gifts.)

These two revenue streams are the key to long-term sustainability. Based on these results, I am confident that we can fulfill our goal to be sustainable by 2012, relying on foundation grants only for special projects but not to keep the lights on.

In his book, Leading Quietly, Joseph Badaracco makes the case that leadership is made of “patient, unglamorous, everyday efforts.” And leaders, he writes, “don’t spearhead ethical crusades. They move patiently, carefully, and incrementally. They do what is right — for their organizations, for the people around them, and for themselves — inconspicuously and without casualties.”

This is the kind of leadership that Kramer and Thornton are showing.

POSTED     Jan. 25, 2010, 3:39 p.m.
SHARE THIS STORY
   
Show comments  
Show tags
 
Join the 15,000 who get the freshest future-of-journalism news in our daily email.
The newsonomics of MLB’s pioneering mobile experience
Running a sports league and running a news operation aren’t the same thing. But there are lessons to be learned from baseball’s success in navigating mobile.
Why The New York Times built a tool for crowdsourced time travel
Madison, a new tool that asks readers to help identify ads in the Times archives, is part of a new open source platform for crowdsourcing built by the company’s R&D Lab.
Opening up the archives: JSTOR wants to tie a library to the news
Its new site JSTOR Daily highlights interesting research and offers background and context on current events.
What to read next
1020
tweets
The newsonomics of the millennial moment
The new wave of news startups is aiming at a younger audience. But do legacy media companies have a chance at earning their attention?
803A mixed bag on apps: What The New York Times learned with NYT Opinion and NYT Now
The two apps were part of the paper’s plan to increase digital subscribers through smaller, targeted offerings. Now, with staff cutbacks on the way, one app is being shuttered and the other is being adjusted.
413The new Vox daily email, explained
The company’s newsletter, Vox Sentences, enters an increasingly crowded inbox. Can concise writing and smart aggregation on the day’s news help expand their audience?
These stories are our most popular on Twitter over the past 30 days.
See all our most recent pieces ➚
Encyclo is our encyclopedia of the future of news, chronicling the key players in journalism’s evolution.
Here are a few of the entries you’ll find in Encyclo.   Get the full Encyclo ➚
Quora
California Watch
Associated Press
Neighborlogs
Topix
Hearst
Futurity
Investigative Reporting Workshop
The Economist
Tampa Bay Times
Backfence
Publish2