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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Hillary Frey   Forests need to burn to regrow

Dannagal G. Young   The return of the gatekeepers

Alice Antheaume   A new test for French media

Elizabeth Jensen   Trust depends on the details

Valérie Bélair-Gagnon   Truthiness in private spaces

David Chavern   Fake news gets solved

Nicholas Quah   Podcasting’s coming class war

Swati Sharma   Failing diversity is failing journalism

David Weigel   A test for online speech

Scott Dodd   Nonprofits team up for impact

Reyhan Harmanci   Bear witness — but then what?

Sarah Marshall   Focusing on the why of the click

Erin Pettigrew   A year of reflection in tech

Eric Nuzum   Podcasting stratifies into hard layers

Christopher Meighan   Unlocking a deeper mobile experience

Nathalie Malinarich   Making it easy

Jon Slade   Trusted news, at a premium

Juliette De Maeyer and Dominique Trudel   A rebirth of populist journalism

Dhiya Kuriakose   The year of digital detoxing

Lee Glendinning   A call for great editing

Libby Bawcombe   Kids board the podcast train

Caitlin Thompson   High touch, high value

Keren Goldshlager   Defining a focus, and then saying no

Javaun Moradi   What can we own?

Mario García   Virtual reality on mobile leaps forward

Alexis Lloyd   Public trust for private realities

Mark Armstrong   Time to pay up

Andrea Silenzi   Podcasts dive into breaking news analysis

Amy O'Leary   Not just covering communities, reaching them

Ariane Bernard   Better data about your users

Pablo Boczkowski   Fake news and the future of journalism

Millie Tran   International expansion without colonial overtones

Matt Karolian   AI improves publishing

Doris Truong   Connecting with diverse perspectives

Kawandeep Virdee   Moving deeper than the machine of clicks

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

Amy Webb   Journalism as a service

Trushar Barot   API or die

Jonathan Hunt   Measurement companies get with the times

Ashley C. Woods   Local journalism will fight a new fight

Michael Oreskes   Reversing the erosion of democracy

Samantha Barry   Messaging apps go mainstream

Rubina Madan Fillion   Snapchat grows up

Asma Khalid   The year of the newsy podcast

Ryan McCarthy   Platforms grow up or grow more toxic

Aja Bogdanoff   Comments start pulling their weight

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

Ole Reißmann   Un-faking the news

Bill Adair   The year of the fact-checking bot

Rachel Schallom   Stop flying over the flyover states

Joanne Lipman   The year of the drone, really

Lam Thuy Vo   The primary source in the age of mechanical multiplication

Sara M. Watson   There is no neutral interface

S.P. Sullivan   Baking transparency into our routines

An Xiao Mina   2017 is for the attention innovators

David Skok   What lies beyond paywalls

Dan Colarusso   Let’s make live video we can love

Tim Griggs   The year we stop taking sides

Guy Raz   Inspiration and hope will matter more than ever

Sue Schardt   Objectivity, fairness, balance, and love

Jeremy Barr   A terrible year for Tiers B through D

Liz Danzico   The triumph of the small

Rasmus Kleis Nielsen   News after advertising may look like news before advertising

Adam Thomas   The coming collaboration across Europe

Renée Kaplan   Pure reach has reached its limit

Corey Ford   The year of the rebelpreneur

Geetika Rudra   Journalism is community

Laura E. Davis   Show your work

Claire Wardle   Verification takes center stage

Mary Walter-Brown   Getting comfortable asking for money

Dan Gillmor   Fix the demand side of news too

Alberto Cairo   Communicating uncertainty to our readers

Almar Latour   Thanks, #fakenews

Steve Henn   The next revolution is voice

Peter Sterne   A dangerous anti-press mix

Jim Friedlich   A banner year for venture philanthropy

Tim Herrera   The safe space of service journalism

Richard J. Tofel   The country doesn’t trust us — but they do believe us

Mandy Velez   The audience is the source and the story

Vivian Schiller   Tested like never before

Burt Herman   Local news gets interesting

Katie Zhu   The year of minority media

Andrew Haeg   The year of listening

Tanya Cordrey   The resurgence of reach

Mary Meehan   Feeling blue in a red state

Sam Ford   The year we talk about our awful metrics

Zizi Papacharissi   Distracted journalism looks in the mirror

Tracie Powell   Building reader relationships

Amie Ferris-Rotman   Вслед за Россией

Ray Soto   VR moves from experiments to immersion

Julia Beizer   Building a coherent core identity

Liz McMillen   The year of deep insights

Molly de Aguiar   Philanthropists galvanize around news

P. Kim Bui   The year journalism teaches again

Umbreen Bhatti   A sense of journalists’ humanity

Mathew Ingram   The Faustian Facebook dance continues

Carla Zanoni   Prioritizing emotional health

Robert Hernandez   History will exclude you, again

Michael Kuntz   Trust is the new click

Moreno Cruz Osório   The year of transparency in Brazilian journalism

Tressie McMillan Cottom   A path through the media’s coming legitimacy crisis

Carrie Brown-Smith   We won’t do enough

Laura Walker   Authentic voices, not fake news

Cindy Royal   Preparing the digital educator-scholar hybrid

Olivia Ma   The year collaboration beats competition

Emi Kolawole   From empathy to community

Juan Luis Sánchez   Your predictions are our present

Mira Lowe   News literacy, bias, and “Hamilton”

Felix Salmon   Headlines matter

Matt Waite   The people running the media are the problem

Helen Havlak   Chasing mobile search results

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

Sydette Harry   Facing journalism’s history

Jonathan Stray   A boom in responsible conservative media

Coleen O'Lear   Back to basics

Priya Ganapati   Mobile websites are ready for reinvention

Bill Keller   A healthy skepticism about data

Maria Bustillos   “It’s true — I saw it on Facebook”

Rebekah Monson   Journalism is community-as-a-service

Melody Kramer   Radically rethinking design

Cory Haik   Navigating power in Trump’s America

Andy Rossback   The year of the user

Erin Millar   The bottom falls out of Canadian media

Rachel Sklar   Women are going to get loud

Sarah Wolozin   Virtual reality on the open web

Emily Goligoski   Incorporating audience feedback at scale

Gabriel Snyder   The aberration of 20th-century journalism

Kathleen Kingsbury   Print as a premium offering

M. Scott Havens   Quality advertising to pair with quality content

Andrew Ramsammy   Rise of the rebel journalist

Ken Schwencke   Disaggregation and collection

Errin Haines   Chaos or community?

Francesco Marconi   The year of augmented writing

Megan H. Chan   Cultural reporting goes mainstream

Ståle Grut   The battle for high-quality VR

Taylor Lorenz   “Selfie journalism” becomes a thing

Mike Ragsdale   A smarter information diet

Andrew Losowsky   Building our own communities

Margarita Noriega   From pinning tweets to tweeting pins