Now in the News: Business Model Is Dead Simple

December 2, 2022

Our Business Model Is Dead Simple

DAN, a US hyperlocal newspaper, built a sustainable revenue stream by charging its 500 subscribers $10 a month for a low-tech newsletter

For the past couple of decades, local news has been struggling everywhere but the problem is particularly visible in the US where large swathes of the country turned into news deserts. These are often poorer, less-wired areas where communities lack credible sources of information about their local institutions which harms local democracy.

But new local outlets also spring up and do well. Take Downtown Albuquerque News (DAN), a hyperlocal newspaper created in 2019 in Albuquerque, New Mexico, US, covering a zone of about 30,000 people.

Instead of resenting the platforms, chasing philanthropic funding or trying to monetise everything else but journalism, DAN makes money with a simple, low-tech newsletter. 100 per cent reader-funded, it does not advertise or sell anything. Its founder and editor Peter Rice said that, even before Google and Facebook, advertising money has been hard and time-consuming to chase. For small, local newsrooms, it means more admin and less time for journalism.

“For ten bucks a month you know what’s going on” DAN publishes hyperlocal stories about “stuff you are wondering about when you walk around your neighbourhood”, like whether new restaurants or construction works.

The company is a family business. Rice works with his wife Lindsay Wood and dad David Lee. The revenue model could not be much simpler. All stories are emailed once a week to some 500 subscribers and nothing is given away for free online. The subscription is either weekly ($10) or annual ($100) and that is about it. “The paywall is as hard as it gets,” says Rice. “The website could go down for a week and it wouldn’t matter.”

Journalists Go On Strike, Citing Unfair Labor Practices By Parent Company

Reporters and other news staff members at Fort Worth Star-Telegram held signs and chanted Monday as they walked along a sidewalk near 7th Street. “What do we want?” “Fair contract!” “When do we want it? Now!” Journalists at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and the union members of the Fort Worth NewsGuild hold signs during a picket event Nov. 28, 2022. Union members are striking in response to what it alleges is unfair labor practices by the newspaper’s parent company, McClatchy. The newsroom’s union alleges the newspaper’s parent company, McClatchy, is not bargaining a contract in good faith. McClatchy is now owned by hedge-fund Chatham Asset Management. The union filed an Unfair Labor Practice complaint in August. McClatchy also has two other complaints against it – one for repudiation/modification of a contract and another for refusal to furnish information.

Of union card holding members, 21 of 23 went on strike Monday at the Star-Telegram, said Kaley Johnson, vice president of the Fort Worth NewsGuild. There’s 27 eligible union members in the newsroom.

The strike is two years in the making, said Johnson, a justice reporter for the Star-Telegram. She said McClatchy has refused to move on contract negotiations. Among the union’s proposals is a $57,500 wage floor. McClatchy countered with a $45,000 wage floor.

“What we and other McClatchy unionized papers have seen repeatedly is that McClatchy comes to the table and does not move at all,” Johnson said. “So we’ll submit a proposal and they’ll send us back their initial proposal, which sometimes is existing company policy, and then they’ll do that again and again and again.”

The strike will not end until a fair contract has been reached, Johnson said. Under the National Labor Relations Act, employees who strike because of unfair labor practices cannot be fired or replaced while striking.

Gannett Braces For 200 More Layoffs This Week

Cutbacks could effect three South Jersey daily newspapers; six other N.J. papers protected by union

Thursday and Friday will be tough days at Gannett, which will lay off about 200 more employees this week, according to a Poynter report. The latest round of cuts follows 400 layoffs over the summer, with an additional 400 vacant positions that will remain unfilled.

It’s not immediately clear how many layoffs will come from Gannett-owned newspapers in New Jersey, if any. Employees of the six Gannett newspapers that have unionized will not be affected by the move, since they are in the process of negotiating a contract. That puts employees of the Courier-Post, Burlington County Times and Daily Journal in jeopardy. Some reporters at other newspapers could accept a buyout package.

The holiday season layoffs have also left Gannett employees in suspense for the last two weeks. “While we have taken several steps already, we must enter the new year in a stronger economic position, and the reality is that our news cost base is currently too high for the revenues it generates,” wrote Henry Faure Walker, Gannett’s interim U.S. News president, in a memo to employees sent on November 16. “Regretfully, this means we will be implementing further reductions.”

Five South Jersey journalists lost their jobs in August, including Deborah Marko, who had spent 37 years as a reporter for the Gannett newspapers

What Our Independent News Experts Learned From Auditing 75 News Businesses

Takeaways from the LION-GNI Sustainability Audits and Funding program

Independent news founders are seeing how audience research strategies can pay off, embracing the business side of their newsrooms, and continuing to demonstrate just how well they can serve audiences even with small scrappy teams.

Those are some of the bright spots our 27 Sustainability Audit analysts identified after helping us compile customized reports for 75 LION members so far this year. (We just announced our final 25 audit recipients for the LION-GNI Sustainability Audits & Funding program and look forward to sharing insights we gleaned across all 100 audits early next year).

“One of the most exciting things about being a sustainability analyst is when you see how much thinking in the local news space has evolved,” said analyst Maria Archangelo, chief revenue officer of Open Campus, and a long-time leader of high-performing revenue, fundraising, sales, and membership teams for news organizations.

That evolution, Archangelo said, has led to news businesses creating better products, finding sustainable and scalable ways to understand what audiences want and developing creative strategies to generate revenue.