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.

Juleyka Lantigua

Daniel Eilemberg

Julia Munslow

Janelle Salanga

Natalia Viana

Francesco Zaffarano

Mandy Jenkins

Andrew Freedman

Mike Rispoli

Larry Ryckman

Joni Deutsch

Cindy Royal

Paul Cheung

Izabella Kaminska

Jesse Holcomb

James Green

Rasmus Kleis Nielsen

Joe Amditis

David Skok

Laxmi Parthasarathy

Joy Mayer

Burt Herman

Don Day

Joanne McNeil

Julia Angwin

A.J. Bauer

Chicas Poderosas

Christoph Mergerson

Simon Allison

Anita Varma

Sam Guzik

Meena Thiruvengadam

An Xiao Mina

Cherian George

Brian Moritz

Matthew Pressman

Tony Baranowski

John Davidow

Kristen Muller

Amy Schmitz Weiss

Amara Aguilar

Whitney Phillips

Jesenia De Moya Correa

Melody Kramer

Stephen Fowler

Jennifer Coogan

Ariel Zirulnick

j. Siguru Wahutu

Mary Walter-Brown

Kathleen Searles & Rebekah Trumble

Anika Anand

Tom Trewinnard

Errin Haines

Megan McCarthy

Shannon McGregor & Carolyn Schmitt

Wilson Liévano

Millie Tran

Michael W. Wagner

Christina Shih

Doris Truong

Sarah Stonbely

Joshua P. Darr

Chase Davis

Cristina Tardáguila

Gonzalo del Peon

Matt DeRienzo

Mario García

Kendra Pierre-Louis

Kristen Jeffers

Stefanie Murray

Sarah Marshall

Jennifer Brandel

Gabe Schneider

Catalina Albeanu

Jody Brannon

Candace Amos

Nikki Usher

Raney Aronson-Rath

Kerri Hoffman

Zizi Papacharissi

Simon Galperin

Moreno Cruz Osório

Eric Nuzum

Matt Karolian

Rachel Glickhouse

Tamar Charney

Jim Friedlich

Richard Tofel

Robert Hernandez

Shalabh Upadhyay

S. Mitra Kalita

Ståle Grut

Anthony Nadler

Parker Molloy

Victor Pickard

Alice Antheaume

Gordon Crovitz

Jonas Kaiser

David Cohn

Jessica Clark