Business first, journalism second

“While journalists can be good businesspeople, sustainability will only come through a mix of skillsets at the owner and founder level.”

Independent journalism businesses need to focus on the business first — and then the journalism.

While product is the most important element in any business — particularly news-focused ones — oftentimes independent outlets are run by journalists who put most or all of their focus on what they love, the news.

But for the sector to survive, that will have to change. We’ll need to attract more entrepreneurs into the space who have a background in sales, businesses, and marketing. While journalists can be good businesspeople, sustainability will only come through a mix of skillsets at the owner and founder level. Finding ways for journalists to acquire better business skills can help too — including full-fledged MBA degrees, business accelerator programs, and more.

In recent years, we’ve seen a significant flow of dollars into the space from Facebook, Google, Report for America, and large foundations. These dollars, while helpful, can’t sustain community news outlets alone, and each has a significant risk of becoming a one-time or non-returning revenue source. News outlets — both nonprofit and for-profit — must find a diversity of revenue streams, including advertising, reader revenue, events, and other emerging ideas. To ensure that models are strong, that ads are sold, that reader revenue products work — we need folks who have many skills.

It’s my hope in 2021, we will see increased talent move toward local news that can help build strong, durable, sustainable products that serve audiences, readers, and communities.

Don Day is the founder and editor of BoiseDev.com.

Independent journalism businesses need to focus on the business first — and then the journalism.

While product is the most important element in any business — particularly news-focused ones — oftentimes independent outlets are run by journalists who put most or all of their focus on what they love, the news.

But for the sector to survive, that will have to change. We’ll need to attract more entrepreneurs into the space who have a background in sales, businesses, and marketing. While journalists can be good businesspeople, sustainability will only come through a mix of skillsets at the owner and founder level. Finding ways for journalists to acquire better business skills can help too — including full-fledged MBA degrees, business accelerator programs, and more.

In recent years, we’ve seen a significant flow of dollars into the space from Facebook, Google, Report for America, and large foundations. These dollars, while helpful, can’t sustain community news outlets alone, and each has a significant risk of becoming a one-time or non-returning revenue source. News outlets — both nonprofit and for-profit — must find a diversity of revenue streams, including advertising, reader revenue, events, and other emerging ideas. To ensure that models are strong, that ads are sold, that reader revenue products work — we need folks who have many skills.

It’s my hope in 2021, we will see increased talent move toward local news that can help build strong, durable, sustainable products that serve audiences, readers, and communities.

Don Day is the founder and editor of BoiseDev.com.

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