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New Report Focuses On How Local News Can Address Current Business Crisis
[September 10, 2018]

New Report Focuses On How Local News Can Address Current Business Crisis

CAMBRIDGE, Mass., Sept. 10, 2018 /PRNewswire/ -- Despite mounting challenges facing local newsrooms around the country, industry leaders are surprisingly optimistic about what can be done to ensure the future of local news, according to a new report co-published by the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School and The Lenfest Institute for Journalism.

This past May, the two organizations convened a working group comprised of key figures from news organizations, technology platforms, news-related startups, and the philanthropic world to discuss how best to identify and implement new business models to support local journalism, as outlined in the report titled "Business Models for Local News: A Field Scan."

"As the legacy business model for local news collapses under the weight of reduced revenue, closures and layoffs, among other challenges, there are many reasons to be optimistic about what the future holds," said Shorenstein Director Nicco Mele. "The ideas laid out in this report come from some of the brightest minds working at the intersection of technology, business and journalism. We are eager to share these findings and facilitate a greater discussion about what can be done to help reinvent business models for local news."

"The local-news working group was remarkably optimistic, but not blindly so," said Jim Friedlich, Executive Director of The Lenfest Institute. "The gathering produced specific and practical themes for immediate action. We are encouraged and eager to partner with funders, entrepreneurs, and journalists to seize the day."

The gathering identified five principle needs and opportunities for the revitalization of local news:

Increasing financial investment in news-related startups

Growing a sustainable journalism enterprise in the current environment requires seeking out diverse sources of revenue. Direct reader revenue must be at the center of sustainable business models for local journalism. However, paid subscriptions, donations, and memberships alone are not likely to support a news business by themselves. Publishers must figure out which supplemental revenue sources work best for them and their audiences. The Report offers a broad array of promising options.

Growingphilanthropic commitments

Advertising is shrinking as a source of news production subsidy. Successfully building a culture of philanthropy for journalism will require creating and negotiating relationships and alignment between three sets of stakeholders: an informed and engaged set of philanthropists, funders, and donors; publishers with viable news products in areas lacking needed coverage; and civil society players, including local officials, who understand and help lend legitimacy to new funding models.

Expanding sources of growth capital for existing organizations

Attracting seed money for new journalism-related ventures is one thing, but established nonprofit and for-profit news ventures are finding it difficult to raise the next round of funding needed to grow. Entrepreneurs in journalism and media technology could benefit from new types of funding targeted to the growth stage of development, perhaps including those that blend philanthropic support with venture fund strategies. Increasing the business acumen of journalists will help to create the next generation of sustainable news content and related technology ventures.

Improving collaboration among both news organizations and platforms

In the shift from ad-driven to reader-supported revenue streams, news products must be something people are willing to pay for and support. Smaller local newsrooms do not currently have the internal resources to experiment with new news formats, while also building out, managing, and converting readers into subscribers. The field of local digital newsrooms needs both an affordable and centralized content management system (CMS) built specifically for producing and distributing journalism, and a consumer relationship management (CRM) platform for tracking current and potential readers. There is an urgent need for collaboration among news organizations to share resources and for outside companies to help produce these tools.

Greater emphasis on diversity, equity, and inclusion

Journalism still has a long way to go in bringing the voices and experiences of diverse groups into every stage of the news production and publishing cycle. News organizations must better reflect and engage the communities they seek to serve. The ability to communicate with and build communities of diverse readers in digital media means these organizations have a great opportunity to grow their audience as they grow the diversity of the people who write, edit, and publish the next generation of news.

To read the full report, visit

About the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy

The Shorenstein Center is a research center based at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, with a mission to study and analyze the power of media and technology and its impact on governance, public policy, and politics. Research, courses, fellowships, public events, and engagement with students, scholars, and journalists form the core of the Center. For more information, visit

About The Lenfest Institute

The Lenfest Institute for Journalism is a non-profit organization whose sole mission is to develop and support sustainable business models for great local journalism. The Institute was founded in 2016 by cable television entrepreneur H.F. (Gerry) Lenfest. Lenfest gifted to the Institute an initial endowment, which has since been supplemented by other donors, for investment in innovative news initiatives, new technology and new models for sustainable journalism. The Institute's goal is to help transform the news industry in the digital age to ensure that high-quality local journalism remains a cornerstone of our democracy.

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SOURCE Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School

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