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.

Nicholas Jackson   Blogging is back, but better

Megan McCarthy   Readers embrace a low-information diet

Jennifer Brandel   A sneak peak at power mapping, 2073’s top innovation

Cindy Royal   J-school grads maintain their optimism and adaptability

Marcus Mabry   News orgs adapt to a post-Trump world (with Trump still in it)

Catalina Albeanu   Publish less, listen more

Brian Moritz   The year sports journalism changes for good

Bill Adair   The future of fact-checking is all about structured data

Marie Shanahan   Journalism schools stop perpetuating the status quo

Tshepo Tshabalala   Go niche

Shaydanay Urbani and Nancy Watzman   Local collaboration is key to slowing misinformation

Julia B. Chan and Kim Bui   Millennials are ready to run things

Jody Brannon   People won’t renew

Nonny de la Pena   News reaches the third dimension

Ariel Zirulnick   Local newsrooms question their paywalls

Mandy Jenkins   You build trust by helping your readers

Tanya Cordrey   Declining trust forces publishers to claim (or disclaim) values

Sara M. Watson   Return of the RSS reader

Laura E. Davis   The focus turns to newsroom leaders for lasting change

Rishad Patel   From direct-to-consumer to direct-to-believers

Zizi Papacharissi   The year we rebuild the infrastructure of truth

Parker Molloy   The press will risk elevating a Shadow President Trump

Marissa Evans   Putting community trauma into context

Ryan Kellett   The bundle gets bundled

Rodney Gibbs   Zooming beyond talking heads

Sam Ford   We’ll find better ways to archive our work

Robert Hernandez   Data and shame

Patrick Butler   Covid-19 reporting has prepared us for cross-border collaboration

Juleyka Lantigua-Williams   The download, podcasting’s metric king, gets dethroned

Ben Collins   We need to learn how to talk to (and about) accidental conspiracists

Celeste Headlee   The rise of radical newsroom transparency

Kevin D. Grant   Parachute journalism goes away for good

Joanne McNeil   Newsrooms push back against Ivy League cronyism

Charo Henríquez   A new path to leadership

Chicas Poderosas   More voices mean better information

Samantha Ragland   The year of journalists taking initiative

Ray Soto   The news gets spatial

Moreno Cruz Osório   In Brazil, a push for pluralism

Alyssa Zeisler   Holistic medicine for journalism

Logan Jaffe   History as a reporting tool

Pia Frey   Building growth through tastemakers and their communities

Meredith D. Clark   The year journalism starts paying reparations

An Xiao Mina   2020 isn’t a black swan — it’s a yellow canary

Chase Davis   The year we look beyond The Story

Michael W. Wagner   Fractured democracy, fractured journalism

Astead W. Herndon   The Trump-sized window of the media caring about race closes again

Nabiha Syed   Newsrooms quit their toxic relationships

Rachel Schallom   The rise of nonprofit journalism continues

Jeremy Gilbert   Human-centered journalism

Danielle C. Belton   A decimated media rededicates itself to truth

Nico Gendron   Ask your readers to help build your products

Linda Solomon Wood   Canada steps up for journalism

Don Day   Business first, journalism second

Ariane Bernard   Going solo is still only a path for the few

Joshua Darr   Legislatures will tackle the local news crisis

Amara Aguilar   Journalism schools emphasize listening

james Wahutu   Journalists still wrongly think the U.S. is different

C.W. Anderson   Journalism changed under Trump — will it keep changing under Biden?

Rasmus Kleis Nielsen   Stop pretending publishers are a united front

Sonali Prasad   Making disaster journalism that cuts through the noise

John Garrett   A surprisingly good year

Colleen Shalby   The definition of good journalism shifts

Gabe Schneider   Another year of empty promises on diversity

Kate Myers   My son will join every Zoom call in our industry

Mike Ananny   Toward better tech journalism

Doris Truong   Indigenous issues get long-overdue mainstream coverage

Cory Bergman   The year after a thousand earthquakes

Cory Haik   Be essential

Jennifer Choi   What have we done for you lately?

Beena Raghavendran   Journalism gets fused with art

David Skok   A pandemic-prompted wave of consolidation

Matt DeRienzo   Citizen truth brigades steer us back toward reality

Jer Thorp   Fewer pixels, more cardboard

Tonya Mosley   True equity means ownership

Tauhid Chappell and Mike Rispoli   Defund the crime beat

Julia Angwin   Show your (computational) work

Imaeyen Ibanga   Journalism gets unmasked

Benjamin Toff   Beltway reporting gets normal again, for better and for worse

María Sánchez Díez   Traffic will plummet — and it’ll be ok

L. Gordon Crovitz   Common law will finally apply to the Internet

Hadjar Benmiloud   Get representative, or die trying

Gonzalo del Peon   Collaborations expand from newsrooms to the business side

Sue Cross   A global consensus around the kind of news we need to save

Candis Callison   Calling it a crisis isn’t enough (if it ever was)

Aaron Foley   Diversity gains haven’t shown up in local news

Renée Kaplan   Falling in love with your subscription

Joni Deutsch   Local arts and music make journalism more joyous

Andrew Donohue   The rise of the democracy beat

John Saroff   Covid sparks the growth of independent local news sites

Jim Friedlich   A newspaper renaissance reached by stopping the presses

Garance Franke-Ruta   Rebundling content, rebuilding connections

Edward Roussel   Tech companies get aggressive in local

Jonas Kaiser   Toward a wehrhafte journalism

Jesse Holcomb   Genre erosion in nonprofit journalism

Tim Carmody   Spotify will make big waves in video

Stefanie Murray and Anthony Advincula   Expect to see more translations and non-English content

Jessica Clark   News becomes plural

Basile Simon   Graphics, unite

Richard J. Tofel   Less on politics, more on how government works (or doesn’t)

Taylor Lorenz   Journalists will learn influencing isn’t easy

Francesca Tripodi   Don’t expect breaking up Google and Facebook to solve our information woes

Eric Nuzum   Podcasting dodged a bullet in 2020, but 2021 will be harder

Kerri Hoffman   Protecting podcasting’s open ecosystem

Sumi Aggarwal   News literacy programs aren’t child’s play

Sarah Marshall   The year audiences need extra cheer

Natalie Meade   Journalism enters rehab

Francesco Zaffarano   The year we ask the audience what it needs

Raney Aronson-Rath   To get past information divides, we need to understand them first

Andrew Ramsammy   Stop being polite and start getting real

Alfred Hermida and Oscar Westlund   The virus ups data journalism’s game

Errin Haines   Let’s normalize women’s leadership

Kristen Muller   Engaged journalism scales

Zainab Khan   From understanding to feeling

Kawandeep Virdee   Goodbye, doomscroll

Brandy Zadrozny   Misinformation fatigue sets in

Bo Hee Kim   Newsrooms create an intentional and collaborative culture

Ståle Grut   Network analysis enters the journalism toolbox

Masuma Ahuja   We’ll remember how interconnected our world is

Anthony Nadler   Journalism struggles to find a new model of legitimacy

Pablo Boczkowski   Audiences have revolted. Will newsrooms adapt?

Ben Werdmuller   The web blooms again

Loretta Chao   Open up the profession

Jean Friedman-Rudovsky and Cassie Haynes   A shift from conversation to action

Burt Herman   Journalists build post-Facebook digital communities

Mark Stenberg   The rise of the journalist-influencer

Sarah Stonbely   Videoconferencing brings more geographic diversity

Whitney Phillips   Facts are an insufficient response to falsehoods

Mike Caulfield   2021’s misinformation will look a lot like 2020’s (and 2019’s, and…)

Rachel Glickhouse   Journalists will be kinder to each other — and to themselves

Jacqué Palmer   The rise of the plain-text email newsletter

José Zamora   Walking the talk on diversity

Mariano Blejman   It’s time to challenge autocompleted journalism

Nisha Chittal   The year we stop pivoting

Mark S. Luckie   Newsrooms and streaming services get cozy

Rick Berke   Virtual events are here to stay

David Chavern   Local video finally gets momentum

John Davidow   Reflect and repent

Steve Henn   Has independent podcasting peaked?

Matt Skibinski   Misinformation won’t stop unless we stop it

Annie Rudd   Newsrooms grow less comfortable with the “view from above”

Anna Nirmala   Local news orgs grasp the urgency of community roots

Ashton Lattimore   Remote work helps level the playing field in an insular industry

Christoph Mergerson   Black Americans will demand more from journalism

Alicia Bell and Simon Galperin   Media reparations now

Heidi Tworek   A year of news mocktails

M. Scott Havens   Traditional pay TV will embrace the disruption

A.J. Bauer   The year of MAGAcal thinking

Hossein Derakhshan   Mass personalization of truth

Tamar Charney   Public radio has a midlife crisis

Janet Haven and Sam Hinds   Is this an AI newsroom?

Delia Cai   Subscriptions start working for the middle

John Ketchum   More journalists of color become newsroom founders

Cherian George   Enter the lamb warriors

Victor Pickard   The commercial era for local journalism is over

Nikki Usher   Don’t expect an antitrust dividend for the media

Ernie Smith   Entrepreneurship on rails

Talmon Joseph Smith   The media rejects deficit hawkery