Business infrastructure, not business models

“It’s time to stop talking about a new business model — because there is no new business model that will magically make journalism financially sustainable.”

It doesn’t matter if your news organization is a for-profit, nonprofit, collaborative, or cooperative: One unavoidable fact is that all news organizations must generate enough revenue to be sustainable. It’s time to stop talking about a new business model — because there is no new business model that will magically make journalism financially sustainable.

In 2022, successful news organizations of all varieties will stop talking about business models. Instead, there will be a focus on building up business infrastructure — to support journalism products that people will pay for and to improve their operational excellence. Three areas of focus:

Build products and not models: It’s no secret that traditional revenue sources in journalism are becoming less dependable. There’s an urgent need for news organizations to diversify those sources. While philanthropy and major gifts from high net-worth donors are up, it’s not a long-term strategy and should be treated as catalytic investment to help grow the organization.

For example, The Markup, a nonprofit that investigates how powerful institutions are using technology to change society, developed Blacklight, a custom tool that scans how websites you visit track your every digital move. It’s services like Blacklight that can create new value for customers that goes beyond journalism. In 2022, more news organizations will focus on developing revenue-generating products and services that are not solely dependent on donor dollars or reader revenue.

Journalism with an equality lens: Let’s face it. Most mainstream journalism is created through a white lens. From reporting on a “hot food trend” called boba tea to an exposé on employment bias against African-American candidates, mainstream news organizations have a tendency to report news from communities of color as exotic or something new. Trust me, Asians already know boba tea is a thing, and Blacks won’t be shocked by the news that employment bias exists.

This past year, Public Integrity has scaled our collaboration with BIPOC news organizations. To avoid the effects of parachute journalism and other harmful practices, Public Integrity is evaluating and assessing assumptions and pitfalls so that we can avoid creating unintentional harm to our partners. We are also turning lessons learned into internal best practices so that we can better serve underrepresented communities. In 2022, more news organizations, mostly nonprofits, will center their reporting from the community’s perspective by not making assumptions about groups of underrepresented people or leaning into problematic narratives.

Invest in operational excellence: Look at some of the most successful news organizations and you’ll see roles like head of partnerships, chief strategy officer, chief of staff, head of culture, head of philanthropy, head of product, and more. These news organizations understand that having great journalists producing great journalism won’t make them sustainable. It literally takes a village to make a news organization sustainable. In 2022, you’ll see a proliferation of new roles designed to support the business of journalism and more investment in technology that advances our reach and our understanding of how the audience interacts with our content.

It doesn’t matter if your news organization is a for-profit, nonprofit, collaborative, or cooperative: One unavoidable fact is that all news organizations must generate enough revenue to be sustainable. It’s time to stop talking about a new business model — because there is no new business model that will magically make journalism financially sustainable.

In 2022, successful news organizations of all varieties will stop talking about business models. Instead, there will be a focus on building up business infrastructure — to support journalism products that people will pay for and to improve their operational excellence. Three areas of focus:

Build products and not models: It’s no secret that traditional revenue sources in journalism are becoming less dependable. There’s an urgent need for news organizations to diversify those sources. While philanthropy and major gifts from high net-worth donors are up, it’s not a long-term strategy and should be treated as catalytic investment to help grow the organization.

For example, The Markup, a nonprofit that investigates how powerful institutions are using technology to change society, developed Blacklight, a custom tool that scans how websites you visit track your every digital move. It’s services like Blacklight that can create new value for customers that goes beyond journalism. In 2022, more news organizations will focus on developing revenue-generating products and services that are not solely dependent on donor dollars or reader revenue.

Journalism with an equality lens: Let’s face it. Most mainstream journalism is created through a white lens. From reporting on a “hot food trend” called boba tea to an exposé on employment bias against African-American candidates, mainstream news organizations have a tendency to report news from communities of color as exotic or something new. Trust me, Asians already know boba tea is a thing, and Blacks won’t be shocked by the news that employment bias exists.

This past year, Public Integrity has scaled our collaboration with BIPOC news organizations. To avoid the effects of parachute journalism and other harmful practices, Public Integrity is evaluating and assessing assumptions and pitfalls so that we can avoid creating unintentional harm to our partners. We are also turning lessons learned into internal best practices so that we can better serve underrepresented communities. In 2022, more news organizations, mostly nonprofits, will center their reporting from the community’s perspective by not making assumptions about groups of underrepresented people or leaning into problematic narratives.

Invest in operational excellence: Look at some of the most successful news organizations and you’ll see roles like head of partnerships, chief strategy officer, chief of staff, head of culture, head of philanthropy, head of product, and more. These news organizations understand that having great journalists producing great journalism won’t make them sustainable. It literally takes a village to make a news organization sustainable. In 2022, you’ll see a proliferation of new roles designed to support the business of journalism and more investment in technology that advances our reach and our understanding of how the audience interacts with our content.

Cherian George

Simon Allison

Sam Guzik

Izabella Kaminska

Tamar Charney

Jennifer Coogan

Anika Anand

Mike Rispoli

Shalabh Upadhyay

Catalina Albeanu

Jennifer Brandel

Ariel Zirulnick

Don Day

A.J. Bauer

Julia Munslow

Daniel Eilemberg

John Davidow

Raney Aronson-Rath

Chicas Poderosas

Mary Walter-Brown

Kristen Muller

Kristen Jeffers

Andrew Freedman

Brian Moritz

Kendra Pierre-Louis

Natalia Viana

Gonzalo del Peon

James Green

S. Mitra Kalita

Matt Karolian

Tony Baranowski

Alice Antheaume

Whitney Phillips

Joni Deutsch

Moreno Cruz Osório

Janelle Salanga

Meena Thiruvengadam

Laxmi Parthasarathy

Christina Shih

Matt DeRienzo

Anita Varma

Francesco Zaffarano

David Cohn

Gabe Schneider

Jonas Kaiser

Kerri Hoffman

Anthony Nadler

Simon Galperin

An Xiao Mina

David Skok

Ståle Grut

Sarah Marshall

Victor Pickard

Joe Amditis

Doris Truong

Joanne McNeil

Stephen Fowler

Richard Tofel

Paul Cheung

Jesenia De Moya Correa

Matthew Pressman

Tom Trewinnard

Chase Davis

Gordon Crovitz

Jody Brannon

Cindy Royal

Joy Mayer

Jesse Holcomb

Sarah Stonbely

Parker Molloy

Zizi Papacharissi

Cristina Tardáguila

Wilson Liévano

Rachel Glickhouse

Mandy Jenkins

Burt Herman

Michael W. Wagner

Robert Hernandez

Errin Haines

Joshua P. Darr

Nikki Usher

Jessica Clark

Megan McCarthy

Larry Ryckman

j. Siguru Wahutu

Millie Tran

Julia Angwin

Mario García

Melody Kramer

Jim Friedlich

Eric Nuzum

Shannon McGregor & Carolyn Schmitt

Christoph Mergerson

Juleyka Lantigua

Amara Aguilar

Amy Schmitz Weiss

Rasmus Kleis Nielsen

Candace Amos

Stefanie Murray

Kathleen Searles & Rebekah Trumble