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

Joy Mayer

Chase Davis

David Cohn

Moreno Cruz Osório

Sarah Marshall

Doris Truong

Parker Molloy

Zizi Papacharissi

Anthony Nadler

Joni Deutsch

Gonzalo del Peon

Raney Aronson-Rath

Laxmi Parthasarathy

Meena Thiruvengadam

Millie Tran

Ariel Zirulnick

Cherian George

Sarah Stonbely

Mary Walter-Brown

Melody Kramer

Julia Munslow

Joshua P. Darr

Eric Nuzum

Gordon Crovitz

Chicas Poderosas

Jonas Kaiser

Mario García

Natalia Viana

Burt Herman

Matthew Pressman

Victor Pickard

Brian Moritz

Janelle Salanga

Amara Aguilar

Joe Amditis

Richard Tofel

Jesse Holcomb

S. Mitra Kalita

Anita Varma

Cristina Tardáguila

Candace Amos

Wilson Liévano

Christoph Mergerson

Amy Schmitz Weiss

Megan McCarthy

Matt Karolian

Don Day

An Xiao Mina

Tom Trewinnard

Kristen Muller

Jody Brannon

Christina Shih

Shannon McGregor & Carolyn Schmitt

Kendra Pierre-Louis

Stephen Fowler

Catalina Albeanu

Cindy Royal

Sam Guzik

David Skok

Anika Anand

Mandy Jenkins

Simon Galperin

Joanne McNeil

Tamar Charney

Larry Ryckman

Paul Cheung

A.J. Bauer

Whitney Phillips

Errin Haines

Kathleen Searles & Rebekah Trumble

Nikki Usher

Andrew Freedman

Rasmus Kleis Nielsen

Jennifer Brandel

Izabella Kaminska

Kristen Jeffers

Simon Allison

James Green

Jessica Clark

Michael W. Wagner

Ståle Grut

John Davidow

Jesenia De Moya Correa

Mike Rispoli

Julia Angwin

Francesco Zaffarano

Tony Baranowski

j. Siguru Wahutu

Robert Hernandez

Stefanie Murray

Daniel Eilemberg

Alice Antheaume

Rachel Glickhouse

Shalabh Upadhyay

Gabe Schneider

Jennifer Coogan

Kerri Hoffman

Matt DeRienzo

Jim Friedlich