A banner year for venture philanthropy

“I say venture philanthropy because smart money is approaching investment in public-interest journalism with the mindset of venture investors.”

In January 2016, The Philadelphia Inquirer became the largest American newspaper to placed under nonprofit ownership, an endowed institute operated for the public benefit. The goal of this structure is to sustain great metropolitan journalism for years to come through new investment, new entrepreneurship, new journalistic resources and new technology.

jim-friedlichWhile the structure is philanthropic, the organizing mindset is highly entrepreneurial, that of a venture investment. These efforts have been lead by, among others, Josh Kopelman, the cofounder of First Round Capital, a leading seed and early-stage venture capitalist, and Gerry Lenfest, a cable entrepreneur and early disruptor of broadcast television. In September, I took over as CEO of the Institute for Journalism in New Media; we have since surrounded ourselves by women and men with a startup mentality unusual for a 187-year-old media property. Tony Haile, Kim Fox, Hong Qu, Vijay Ravindran, Burt Herman, Martin Nisenholtz, and Sara Lomax-Reese have each joined the Institute or Philadelphia Media Network team or board in the last few months.

In November and December, post-election, we and several other public-interest media groups have been witness to meaningful new support from engaged, concerned, and generous individuals. Our colleagues at ProPublica, the Center for Public Integrity, WNYC, the Texas Tribune, the Marshall Project and others report the same. This surge of philanthropic support was encouraging in several respects: First, it has been bipartisan, coming from both conservatives and progressives who share concern about the advent of fake news and the need for objective coverage. Second, there is a growing view of journalism as a critical investment in our democracy and our society. A kind of venture investment mindset has emerged that views the reinvention and revitalization of news from the same perspective as the revitalization of other areas of communications, software or information technology.

In 2017, in addition to continued individual giving, we will see more serious institutional philanthropic commitment to journalism. In particular, we will see much more interest and action at the intersection of journalism and venture philanthropy. I say venture philanthropy because smart money is approaching investment in public-interest journalism with the mindset of venture investors. The Democracy Fund, the Gates Foundation, the Emerson Collective, and other philanthropies with financial roots in software and technology view their investments much as do venture capitalists, with rigor and expectation for meaningful returns. In distinction to classic venture investing, the currency of venture philanthropy in journalism is not cash but deep, fact-based reporting, measurable audience engagement, meaningful policy and social impact, and the development of new business models that sustain great journalism and civic engagement. These returns on civic investment will be more valued and more valuable in 2017 than ever before. When the value of investment returns increase, so too does invested capital.

2017 will be a banner year for smart, disciplined and entrepreneurial new investment in the future of news, both for-profit and philanthropic. As John Oliver said, “You get what you pay for.”

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Jim Friedlich   A banner year for venture philanthropy

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Andrew Losowsky   Building our own communities

Anita Zielina   The sales funnel reaches (and changes) the newsroom

Coleen O'Lear   Back to basics

Alice Antheaume   A new test for French media

Umbreen Bhatti   A sense of journalists’ humanity

Ashley C. Woods   Local journalism will fight a new fight

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Doris Truong   Connecting with diverse perspectives

Errin Haines Whack   Chaos or community?

S.P. Sullivan   Baking transparency into our routines

Juliette De Maeyer and Dominique Trudel   A rebirth of populist journalism

Felix Salmon   Headlines matter

Matt Waite   The people running the media are the problem

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Taylor Lorenz   “Selfie journalism” becomes a thing

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Ole Reißmann   Un-faking the news

Lee Glendinning   A call for great editing

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Christopher Meighan   Unlocking a deeper mobile experience

Erin Pettigrew   A year of reflection in tech

Eric Nuzum   Podcasting stratifies into hard layers

Adam Thomas   The coming collaboration across Europe

Laura Walker   Authentic voices, not fake news

Jon Slade   Trusted news, at a premium

Michael Kuntz   Trust is the new click

Alberto Cairo   Communicating uncertainty to our readers

Corey Ford   The year of the rebelpreneur

Ken Schwencke   Disaggregation and collection

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Liz Danzico   The triumph of the small

Almar Latour   Thanks, #fakenews

Alexis Lloyd   Public trust for private realities

Burt Herman   Local news gets interesting

Ray Soto   VR moves from experiments to immersion

Millie Tran   International expansion without colonial overtones

Ståle Grut   The battle for high-quality VR

Reyhan Harmanci   Bear witness — but then what?

Kawandeep Virdee   Moving deeper than the machine of clicks

Sam Ford   The year we talk about our awful metrics

Andrew Haeg   The year of listening

Vivian Schiller   Tested like never before

Claire Wardle   Verification takes center stage

Tim Herrera   The safe space of service journalism

Jonathan Hunt   Measurement companies get with the times

Sydette Harry   Facing journalism’s history

Cindy Royal   Preparing the digital educator-scholar hybrid

Amy Webb   Journalism as a service

An Xiao Mina   2017 is for the attention innovators

Valérie Bélair-Gagnon   Truthiness in private spaces

Robert Hernandez   History will exclude you, again

Michael Oreskes   Reversing the erosion of democracy

Dannagal G. Young   The return of the gatekeepers

Joanne Lipman   The year of the drone, really

Jeremy Barr   A terrible year for Tiers B through D

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Caitlin Thompson   High touch, high value

Nathalie Malinarich   Making it easy

Peter Sterne   A dangerous anti-press mix

Geetika Rudra   Journalism is community

Nushin Rashidian   A rise in high-price, high-value subscriptions

Tim Griggs   The year we stop taking sides

Carla Zanoni   Prioritizing emotional health

Tracie Powell   Building reader relationships

Olivia Ma   The year collaboration beats competition

Helen Havlak   Chasing mobile search results

Mary Meehan   Feeling blue in a red state

Laura E. Davis   Show your work

Dan Colarusso   Let’s make live video we can love

Ernst-Jan Pfauth   Earn trust by working for (and with) readers

Carrie Brown-Smith   We won’t do enough

P. Kim Bui   The year journalism teaches again

Samantha Barry   Messaging apps go mainstream

Matt Karolian   AI improves publishing

Sarah Marshall   Focusing on the why of the click

Pablo Boczkowski   Fake news and the future of journalism

M. Scott Havens   Quality advertising to pair with quality content

Rachel Schallom   Stop flying over the flyover states

Mira Lowe   News literacy, bias, and “Hamilton”

Bill Adair   The year of the fact-checking bot

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Emily Goligoski   Incorporating audience feedback at scale

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