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.

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Izabella Kaminska

Sarah Stonbely

Tony Baranowski

James Green

Candace Amos

Anthony Nadler

Brian Moritz

Anika Anand

Melody Kramer

Tom Trewinnard

Gordon Crovitz

Andrew Freedman

Anita Varma

Janelle Salanga

Richard Tofel

Jonas Kaiser

Matt DeRienzo

Juleyka Lantigua

Paul Cheung

Amy Schmitz Weiss

Rasmus Kleis Nielsen

Ariel Zirulnick

Cherian George

Gabe Schneider

Joanne McNeil

Moreno Cruz Osório

Meena Thiruvengadam

Joni Deutsch

Daniel Eilemberg

Burt Herman

Jody Brannon

Parker Molloy

Tamar Charney

Robert Hernandez

Zizi Papacharissi

Julia Munslow

Michael W. Wagner

Simon Galperin

Larry Ryckman

John Davidow

Simon Allison

Francesco Zaffarano

Ståle Grut

Joy Mayer

Sarah Marshall

A.J. Bauer

Errin Haines

Don Day

AX Mina

Kristen Muller

Chicas Poderosas

Julia Angwin

Sam Guzik

Jesse Holcomb

Alice Antheaume

Megan McCarthy

Joshua P. Darr

Mike Rispoli

S. Mitra Kalita

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Doris Truong

Gonzalo del Peon

Matthew Pressman

Raney Aronson-Rath

Shannon McGregor & Carolyn Schmitt

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Chase Davis

Jennifer Coogan

Christoph Mergerson

Matt Karolian

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Kristen Jeffers

Christina Shih

Rachel Glickhouse

Kathleen Searles & Rebekah Trumble

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Kendra Pierre-Louis

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Wilson Liévano

Mario García

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Nikki Usher

Millie Tran

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David Cohn

Cristina Tardáguila

Mandy Jenkins

Jim Friedlich

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