HOME
          
LATEST STORY
iOS 8: How 5 news orgs have updated their apps for Apple’s new operating system
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.
iOS 8: How 5 news orgs have updated their apps for Apple’s new operating system
ABC, the AP, Breaking News, The Guardian, and The New York Times have all updated apps (or introduced new ones) to take advantage of new features on iOS 8.
How the new Wall Street Journal iPad app is taking advantage of new features in iOS 8
The app, released with the operating system today, has more functionality in notifications and lets users continue reading articles across Apple devices.
The Baffler: The anti-innovation magazine embraces digital
With a brand new website, The Baffler seeks the audience and impact it missed the first time around.
What to read next
749
tweets
How a Norwegian public radio station is using Snapchat to connect young listeners with news
“A lot of people check their phones before they get out of the bed in the morning, and they check social media before the news sites.”
724When it comes to chasing clicks, journalists say one thing but feel pressure to do another
Newsroom ethnographer Angèle Christin studied digital publications in France and the U.S. in order to compare how performance metrics influence culture.
691Wearables could make the “glance” a new subatomic unit of news
“The audience wants to go faster. This can’t be solved with responsive design; it demands an original approach, certainly at the start.”
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 ➚
PubliCola
NBCNews.com
Los Angeles Times
Seattle PostGlobe
Minneapolis Star Tribune
Grist
The Bay Citizen
BBC News
The Miami Herald
Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism
Byliner
Upworthy