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.

Joe Amditis

Julia Munslow

Errin Haines

Mike Rispoli

Francesco Zaffarano

A.J. Bauer

Chase Davis

Joni Deutsch

Brian Moritz

Mario García

Jesenia De Moya Correa

Amara Aguilar

Tom Trewinnard

Simon Allison

Kristen Muller

Millie Tran

Moreno Cruz Osório

Simon Galperin

Eric Nuzum

Sam Guzik

Whitney Phillips

Kathleen Searles & Rebekah Trumble

Shannon McGregor & Carolyn Schmitt

Doris Truong

Andrew Freedman

Cherian George

Janelle Salanga

Gabe Schneider

Robert Hernandez

Ariel Zirulnick

Gonzalo del Peon

Kerri Hoffman

Tony Baranowski

Victor Pickard

Izabella Kaminska

Anita Varma

Christina Shih

Larry Ryckman

Jody Brannon

Michael W. Wagner

Raney Aronson-Rath

Mary Walter-Brown

Zizi Papacharissi

Sarah Stonbely

Megan McCarthy

Meena Thiruvengadam

Stephen Fowler

Jesse Holcomb

Joy Mayer

John Davidow

Gordon Crovitz

Anika Anand

Juleyka Lantigua

Wilson Liévano

Daniel Eilemberg

Rachel Glickhouse

Alice Antheaume

David Skok

j. Siguru Wahutu

Melody Kramer

Chicas Poderosas

Catalina Albeanu

James Green

Rasmus Kleis Nielsen

Nikki Usher

Richard Tofel

Jennifer Brandel

Sarah Marshall

An Xiao Mina

Don Day

Tamar Charney

Kristen Jeffers

Jessica Clark

Laxmi Parthasarathy

David Cohn

Julia Angwin

Cristina Tardáguila

Jim Friedlich

Ståle Grut

Joshua P. Darr

Burt Herman

Jennifer Coogan

Anthony Nadler

Mandy Jenkins

S. Mitra Kalita

Stefanie Murray

Parker Molloy

Christoph Mergerson

Jonas Kaiser

Amy Schmitz Weiss

Matt DeRienzo

Shalabh Upadhyay

Joanne McNeil

Kendra Pierre-Louis

Matthew Pressman

Candace Amos

Natalia Viana

Cindy Royal

Paul Cheung

Matt Karolian