One of the top concerns facing student media is financial durability. If you haven’t yet, we recommend you start by checking out our Student Media Financial Survival Strategies page, where you’ll find ideas and tools geared specifically to high school and college journalists.
Here you’ll find a sampling of resources and guidance on some of those strategies. We’ve also included a list of organizations working toward financial sustainability of local and/or student news.
Have suggestions to add to this page? Email Diana Mitsu Klos at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Coping with more disruption in the 2020-21 academic year and beyond
It’s impossible to truly predict how the 2020-21 academic year will go, but these links will get you up to speed on what we do know and what disruptions to expect including economic fallout, school reopenings and layoffs.
- Town Hall: Budget issues, concerns and some possible answers ACP and CMA webinar — Expect disruptions in the 2020-21 academic year; consider revenue streams beyond print advertising.
- College Media & Business Advertising Managers resource page — Learn about native advertising, marketing, reader engagement, sponsorship and market research.
- College Media Revenue Reversal, CMBAM, Flytedesk, and Society of Professional Journalists webinar — How to squeeze every last dollar from print ads (especially during a worldwide heath crisis and in a presidential election year), retool training for student sales reps, and start to integrate revenue from newsletters, donations and more.
- All Digital Newspapers, ACP, CMA and Poynter Institute webinar — How to retool your news and sales staffs if you decide to remain online/digital only in the fall of 2020 and beyond.
- Create an effective “About Us” page, Trusting News article — Why it’s important to tell your readers, advertisers and sponsors who you are, what you do, how you are funded, and key policies related to ethics, independent journalism and business operations.
- We can’t return to normal: voices from the Local Voices Network COVID-19 conversations — Local news organizations and civic institutions share how they organize and what they’ve learned from small community conversations.
- Chronicle of Higher Education university/college layoff and furlough list (updated regularly). Since March 2020, more than 51,000 employees at 224 institutions of higher learning have been laid off furloughed or faced contract non-renewal.
- Chronicle of Higher Education: List of Colleges’ Plans for Reopening in the Fall (updated frequently). Information from nearly 3,000 institutions about their plans for the 2020-21 academic year.
- American Association of University Professors, Financial Crisis FAQs. Advice on navigating faculty layoffs and budget cuts from an organization whose members are academic professionals.
Sustaining local news
- Industry Outlook and a Path to the “New Normal” for Local News, Local Media Association webinar — Newspaper revenue projections for the remainder of 2020 to 2022, and how to navigate the online transition through three phases: Lockdown, Transition and the New Normal. Presentation slides.
- Curing Local News For Good, Columbia Journalism Review article — Steve Waldman, the co-founder of Report for America details both urgent, temporary ways to preserve local news organizations and longer term solutions. These strategies cover incorporation status, de-consolidation of ownership, the funding priorities of public media, direct aid to journalists, and strengthening nonprofit news organizations. He also considers government support, with an eye toward structures that guarantee independence and strict non-partisanship.
- The Democracy Fund’s Local News Lab encourages new kinds of collaborations among journalists, newsrooms, and communities.
- The Crisis in Local News webinar by The Aspen Institute and Knight Foundation — Local news, in crisis before the pandemic, is now facing a cataclysm. Advertising has plummeted. Print has no market. And consolidation has driven record cuts. At stake are not only jobs, but the access to critical trustworthy information for millions of Americans.
- Business Models for Local News A Field Scan by the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy, Harvard University — A 2018 overview of how to diversify and strengthen income streams for journalism, from philanthropy to new news products.
- The Strategic Digital Media Entrepreneur, book by Penelope Muse Abernathy and Joann Sciarrino, published in 2019 — Abernathy is the force behind “The Expanding News Desert” studies that chronicle the steep decline of local newspapers, the growth of news deserts and its implications for communities and democracy, and efforts to sustain community journalism.
Sponsors, members, donors and subscribers
- Google News Initiative, Digital Growth Program. Strategies to grow audience, revenue data and more.
- Bureaucrats Put the Squeeze on College Newspapers, published in The Atlantic magazine in August 2019, details administrative threats to the funding of college newspapers or to the employment of their faculty advisers as responses to critical coverage.
- McClatchy editor Robyn Tomlin asked readers for help: “What happened next surprised me,” An editor told readers about her news organization’s financial woes. The response? Paid subscriptions and donations to its Report for America fund.
- Online News Association revenue and local news sections provide an extensive collection of further reading on cultivating subscribers, donors and more.
- Critical publisher benchmarks for digital subscription success — This Local Media Association presentation looks at 10 metrics and benchmarks to building paid subscriptions.
- How Local News Can Survive and Thrive During the Pandemic, Knight Foundation — Strategies include fundraising from the audience, new premium content. a push for memberships or subscriptions, sponsored access, content and online events, pursuing philanthropic grants, government loans and subsidies.
- Raising the Quality Bar in Virtual Events — This webinar by The Texas Tribune/Revenue Lab teaches how to draw participants to online events that look/sound professional and recognize paying sponsors.
- Digital subscriptions Playbook, Local Media Association — Key questions and metrics to address if your goal is to build paid digital subscribers.
- Is Email the Future of Journalism? The New Republic — Newsletters with paid sponsors, ads and strong content are becoming a crucial revenue stream.
- Drawing on ten years of expertise, the Texas Tribune wants to coach you on its money-making lessons. The nonprofit Texas Tribune is sharing what has worked, and not worked, over the last decade as it raised $56 million to support its model for journalism. Details on budgeting, grant proposals and engaging readers and donors.
- Crowdfunding Guide, Local News Lab — A six-part guide on how to implement crowdfunding strategies to draw in recurring donors.
- Here’s (exactly) how we organized one of the largest virtual U.S. journalism events to date, Center for Cooperative Media — Tips for paid or sponsored webinars.
- The Membership Puzzle Project, Jay Rosen, New York University — Ideas to create a sustainable path to public service journalism, including memberships, understanding audience data and metrics, and building reader trust.
- Virtual Introductions for Incoming Students: Building an Inclusive Campus Community in an Online World, Webinar by the National Center for Free Speech and Civic Engagement, University of California — The challenges to building inclusive orientation and online learning. Our takeaway: Student media should be part of any online orientations and introductions to campus resources.
- Journalist’s Guide to Using Zoom for Community Engagement, Cortico.
- Journalists-Turned-Entrepreneurs on How They Built Their Businesses, Nieman Reports
- The Transition to Digital Journalism, Advanced Media Institute, University of California at Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism (Content is somewhat dated but still useful.) Includes strategies to phase out print and ramp up digital delivery.
Not all of the following organizations are specifically oriented toward college news outlets, but all are geared, at least in part, toward financial sustainability of local news. As you continue to research financial strategies for your newsroom, these are some of the organizations you can look to for guidance.
- American Journalism Project. Here’s their rubric for the types of organizations they fund.
- Associated Collegiate Press
- Center for Cooperative Media (New Jersey focused, with information about how news organizations around the state work are partnering to report for the public good. This is something replicable in other states.)
- College Media Association
- College Media Business and Advertising Managers. Results of its 2020 contest and archive of award recipients.
- Facebook Journalism Initiative
- Google News Initiative
- Institute for Nonprofit News
- Knight Foundation journalism portal, detailing its programs, studies and grants.
- LION Publishers (Local Independent Online News)
- Local Media Association
- Media Impact Funders
- Medill Local News Initiative
- News Revenue Hub (Tips in their report archive)
- Nieman Lab, Business Models
- Online News Association
- Pew Research Center’s journalism and media portal contains studies and polls about the news media and key topics in the news. Its annual State of the News Media report is a must read.
- Pro Publica Local Reporting Network
- Poynter Institute articles by Rick Edmonds, Barbara Allen and Taylor Blatchford
- RevLab, A Project of The Texas Tribune
- Save Student Newsrooms
- Society of Professional Journalists, Paper Money (co-sponsored by CNBAM and flytedesk)
- Society of Professional Journalists, Journalist’s Toolbox, College Media
- The Lenfest Institute outlines one mission on three priorities to save local journalism: High-Impact Journalism; News Technology & Innovation; and Diverse, Growing, Audiences. Learn about the funnel approach of drawing readers into being willing to pay for quality news and information.
- The Local News Lab
- The Membership Puzzle Project
- Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism
- Trusting News
- Western Association of University Publications Managers
Page last updated Sept. 17, 2020