Chi-Town Daily Discloses Costs for Donations

Posted on 23. Jul, 2009 by in Hyperlocal, Not-For-Profit, Revenue

The Chicago-based Chi-Town Daily News, a nonprofit metro news site that launched in December 2005, has set up a new kind of tip jar this month. As a way to pull in more funding, the site now tells readers the value of every article they read before requesting donations to support its ongoing coverage.

“Reader donations allow us to hire talented full-time journalists to cover key beats like housing, the environment and Chicago’s community college system, and to train volunteer neighborhood reporters,” the site denotes.

Individual stories on the site cost between $250-$1,000 to produce, depending on the word length. A typical story is worth about $350.

Chi-Town Daily News Pic“It’s completely based on cost per word,” says Geoff Dougherty, the Chi-Town Daily News’ editor and CEO. “We took our expenditures for the last fiscal year and divided them by the number of words that we published over the same period.”

“In addition to boosting our donations, we’re offering people a really useful window into the cost of producing public affairs news,” he adds.

Donations from readers go to the organization’s general overhead — rent and utilities, “the occasional computer,” and paying the website’s seven-member staff, which includes a community organizer, three beat reporters, and two part-time editors.

Plenty of nonprofit news organizations like NPR have asked for donations from their audiences over the years, but Chi-Town Daily News is one of the first to breakdown its costs on a story-to-story basis. Their model resembles the one developed by Spot.Us, which asks for readers to cover the costs of investigative stories — like the origins of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch — before the fact.

“If you look at NPR, they often talk about how much it costs to run a news station,” says Geoff. “But there’s never been a specific breakdown of costs. We thought this might be a good way to get readers more engaged in the funding of news.”

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