Shaping the Future: Reports, Studies, Essays and Conferences

As part of our research for the new business models for news project, we’re providing summaries and links to a wide range of material that brings value to the discussion. This section will be updated regularly.

New Voices: What Works – Lessons from Funding Five Years of Community News Startups (9/30/2010)
By Jan Schaffer, J-Lab Executive Director
Funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
Read more here.
Download the entire report here.

Pew Project for Excellence in Journalism: State of the News Media 2010 – Online Economics and Consumer Attitudes (3/15/2010)
View the report online here.
Download the entire report here.

USC Annenberg’s Center on Communication Leadership & Policy: Public Policy and Funding the News (1/28/10)
“Government financial support that has bolstered this country’s commercial news business since its colonial days is in sharp decline and is likely to fall further, according to a report released today by USC Annenberg’s Center on Communication Leadership & Policy. Because these cutbacks are occurring at the height of the digital revolution, they will have an especially powerful impact on a weakened news industry.” Read the entire report here.

American University’s J-Lab: New Entrepreneurs – New Perspectives on News (11/6/09)
“New forms of journalism are being created around the country where online local news sites have launched to report on their communities. The journalism is characterized by a deliberate shift in the definition of objectivity, a drive for community conversation and discussion, and broader definitions of “news” that seek to connect readers to a sense of the place where they live, according to new research released today by American University’s J-Lab: The Institute for Interactive Journalism. The research found that journalism on independent local news and information Web sites is increasingly becoming an act of participation, not just an act of observation. The participatory involvement calls for site editors to collaborate with readers in trawling for stories, unraveling news as it is happening, and ensuring that people know how to engage in community issues and events.” Read the entire report here.

Borrell Associates Report: The Rumors of Newspapers’ Death (8/6/09) Newspaper advertising will stage a minor comeback of 2.4% in 2010, the report concludes. However, that comeback won’t come close to the $55 billion the newspaper industry saw earlier this decade. “The fact is, newspapers reached their peak 91 years ago as two publishers battled over the presidency. On Nov. 2, 1920, in the first-ever radio news broadcast, KDKA delivered the results: Warren Harding beat James Cox. Electronic media was born, as was the business of writing obituaries for the newspaper industry.” View the full report here.

University of Southern California Report: Growing Funders of the News (7/7/09) Philanthropic foundations have become increasingly involved in supporting journalism, the report shows. A clear example: the Kaiser Family Foundation recently gave $3.5 million for the creation of a health news website. But while “a growing number of foundations are getting into the business of supporting news-and-information nonprofits” — including a $5 million investment from the Knight Foundation to persuade community foundations to follow suit — philanthropic organizations are unlikely to become the primary source of funding for news anytime soon, the report concludes. Download the full pdf here.

Pocantico Conference: Building an Investigative News Network (6/28/09 – 6/30/09) The initial joining of an investigative journalism network represented by 25 nonprofit news organizations around the country. The new network’s members include Bill Buzenberg of The Center for Public Integrity and Robert Rosenthal of The Center for Investigative Reporting. Their first conference at the Pocantico Estate in New York established a shared aim to foster the “highest quality investigative journalism,” but also addressed more personal concerns for the reporters and editors involved like employee benefits, health care, and general liability insurance.

Read their lofty declaration on the conference’s home page. Or click here for a more layman summary. Also, Neiman Lab talks about some of the network’s potential complications.

Free Press Conference: We’re Changing Media Together (5/14/09) Highlighting the fact that 40% of the country still lacks broadband access, the conference’s panelists offer several initiatives — discounting the idea of pay walls — for sustaining quality journalism. One of their keys proposals is to refine existing bankruptcy and tax laws to encourage local investors and community groups to take over failing news operations instead of large corporations and private equity firms. The panelists also propose the “development of a government-seeded innovation fund for journalism – a taxpayer-supported venture capital firm that invests in new journalism models.” Link to the conference here.

Duke University Conference: New Models for Nonprofit Ownership of Media (5/5/09) More big names in journalism and philanthropy met to discuss how nonprofit business models could be applied to the broader media landscape.

Joel Kramer of and Jon Sawyer of the Pulitzer Center presented an outline for a nationwide “donor collaborative.” The collaborative would grant money based on a nonprofit’s success at raising revenues through other venues (donations, subscriptions, etc.)

Penelope Muse Abernathy, Knight Chair and Journalism/Digital Economics Professor at University of North Carolina, presented four models for a nonprofit-based New York Times:

  1. Establish an endowment that would help fund the Times’ annual $200 million budget.
  2. Create a mixed nonprofit model where the Times’ more costly desks — like the Foreign Reporting desk — would be funded through philanthropic efforts
  3. Sell the Times to a well-endowed University or educational institution
  4. Sell the Times to an “angel” investor who would ensure the company’s journalistic independence

The New Yorker published an interesting response to Abernathy’s proposal, emphasizing the need for several models implemented simultaneously. Access all related content here.

PricewaterhouseCoopers Study: Outlook for Newspaper Publishing in the Digital Age (5/09) Newspaper consumers are willing to pay 62% of what they pay for their regular paper when it comes to online content, the study shows. Out of 5,000 interviews conducted in seven countries, the study also found that Americans are willing to pay the most (68%), while Dutch citizens are willing to pay the least (38%). Newspaper consumers in Canada, France, Germany, Switzerland and the U.K. fell in the middle. View the full report here.

PBS Engage and Knight Commission Study: Public Input on Community Information Needs (4/09) An indication that Americans do care about their local news coverage. The online study contains nearly 1,000 comments from citizens across the country in response to five questions on how information needs are being met in their local communities:

  1. Where do you find your information?
  2. What kind of information do you need to inform your decisions?
  3. How can local governments improve public access to information?
  4. Do you think everyone in your community has access to the networks they need to find important information?
  5. How would you improve the quality of information available to the public?

View all comments here.

CQ Researcher Report: Future of Journalism, Will Newspapers’ Decline Weaken Democracy (3/17/09) An extensive overview of the recent cutbacks in journalism, as well as some possible solutions, lists of new online news sources, and answers to the burning questions: “Can philanthropy save journalism?” “Should newspapers shut down their presses?” and “Can the Internet fill the reporting gaps caused by the decline of newspapers?” View the full report here.

Steven Berlin Johnson Speech: Old Growth Media and the Future of News (3/13/09) Johnson provides a bright outlook on the future of journalism, comparing the new news ecosystem to a  thriving rain forest where information comes in abundance. Though Johnson recognizes the difficulty of filtering important and viable information on the web, he argues that more access to localized and specified coverage will only benefit audiences. As the old news models continue to fade, he proses, our ability to produce and appreciate true journalism will grow in the long-run. Read the full speech here.

Clay Shirky Essay: Newspapers and Thinking the Unthinkable (3/13/09) Shirky contends that no general business models for newspapers can apply in the digital realm. He argues that the free sharing of information on the Internet solves the core problem that led to a need for print publishing in the first place: “the incredible difficulty, complexity, and expense of making something available to the public.” Read the full essay here.

OurBlook Interviews: The Future of Journalism (3/09) A compilation of two dozen Q&A’s with various established media people about “what the information distribution map will look like in 20 years.” The long list of interviews includes an interesting one with John Yemma, of The Christian Science Monitor, about his decision to close the Monitor’s print edition, and what citizen journalism still needs to become a viable source of information in the near future. Read all of the articles here.

Mignon-Media Report: Paid Online Circulation Numbers (2/09) Two theoretical models for an online-only news outlet:

A newspaper with 100,000 print subscribers paying $14.75 a month could increase its online revenue by more than 300% — from $1.8 million to $6.1 million — by fully eliminating its print edition (if all current subscribers went online), the report concludes. Link to the blog post here.

A newspaper with 50,000 print subscribers paying $17 a month could increase its online revenue by about 700% — from $700,000 to $5.2 million (if all current subscribers went online). Link to the blog post here.

View the full spreadsheet here.

LSU John Breaux Conference: New Models for News (4/08) A dozen panelists, including Bill Wheatley of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and Jim Brady of The Washington Post, discuss new models for investigative and hard news. The discourse touches on familiar business models — such as nonprofit and government-sponsored news — but also introduces the idea of campaign finance reform as a way to bring new information to the public. View the full pdf here.

Chris Anderson Essay In Wired: Free! Why $0.00 Is the Future of Business (2/25/08) Anderson argues that since Gillete invented the disposable razor in 1903, American industry has been gradually headed towards a “freeconomy,” where complimentary services for consumers — from online music to email — spur demand for other services that generate money. Anderson divides the priceless economy into six categories:

  1. Freemium (What’s free: Web software and services, some content.)
  2. Advertising (What’s free: content, services, software, and more.)
  3. Cross-subsidies (What’s free: any product that entices you to pay for something else.)
  4. Zero marginal cost (What’s free: things that can be distributed without an appreciable cost to anyone.)
  5. Labor exchange (What’s free: Web sites and services.)
  6. Gift economy (What’s free: the whole enchilada, be it open source software or user-generated content.)

Read the full essay here.