McClatchy tries nonprofit funding for education coverage
In a bid to keep subscriber growth going, McClatchy is turning to issues-based reporting, aided by community nonprofits.
In late September, the local news publisher announced the launch of the Education Lab, a four-person team that will cover education in the San Joaquin Valley out of the bureau of The Fresno Bee. The Lab, which McClatchy developed after soliciting input from dozens of local community members and multiple local nonprofits, will be supported for its first year by a collection of nonprofits including the Central Valley Community Foundation, with discussions underway for funding a second. The Central Valley Community Foundation will not have any say or control over what the Lab’s reporters publish. The stories produced by the Education Lab will be shared with local groups as well as local news organizations, in Spanish as well as in English.
The Central Valley Community Foundation will be watching the kinds of outcomes that the Education Lab’s reporting is able to drive. But the larger strategic goal for McClatchy is to drive digital subscriptions. In its most recent quarterly earnings, McClatchy reported having over 185,000 digital-only subscribers, up more than 51% year over year. The news publisher reported a net loss of $17.5 million over that same period, against revenues of $178.7 million.
“By delivering focused reporting and community engagement, we feel like the value we’re bringing will lead to an increase in digital subscription support,” said Lauren Gustus, the regional editor of McClatchy’s California, Idaho and Washington news operations. While some of the Lab’s reporting will be behind the Bee’s paywall, not all of it will; much of it will be shared with community and news organizations, who do not operate paywalls. “We think more people are going to want to support The Bee because the Education Lab reporting will matter to them,” Gustus said.
While the Education Lab is still coming together — its reporting team is still being hired — McClatchy believes the model, originally pioneered by The Seattle Times in 2013, is replicable. The news publisher is engaged in conversations with local community groups and organizations in more than eight different markets around the country, with an eye toward launching more labs by year’s end and more next year.
“It’s no secret that most legacy news organizations have been challenged,” Gustus said. “If fact-based journalism is in peril, which I believe it is, we have to think pretty radically about how we serve our communities.”
“We know digital-only subscription growth is key, and we know if we do more of the work local communities want, in theory we should find more of that support in the digital subscription space,” Gustus said. “This is meant to be a bridge to sustainability and not necessarily the establishment of a nonprofit news operation.”
As declining print advertising has battered local news publishers, there has been a substantial increase in institutional support for local journalism over the past decade; Gustus said that institutional giving to local news has quadrupled over the past 10 years.
At the other end of the spectrum, a number of news publishers have found success getting their readers to pay for specific reporting projects. The Guardian, for example, discovered that its American audience was willing to pay for investigative series focused on topics such as the environment.
As that money’s pooled in, there has been some scholarship around the effects that nonprofit donations or involvement have had on reporting. Though many see the opportunities for conflict as not too different from the challenges that publishers face with advertisers.
“It’s very rare that you’d see a philanthropist come in and fund something like what McClatchy is doing and say, ‘Here are the stories you need to write,’” said Matt Skibinski, a reader revenue analyst at the Lenfest Institute. “With philanthropies, you have the same kind of implicit concerns [as advertising]. But as long as the independence is maintained, publishers remain interested.”
‘We see a world where publisher data replaces third-party data’: News U.K. puts its data at the nucleus of post-cookie push for media budgets
News U.K. has overhauled the way it collects, sorts and monetizes its audience data across all its titles via first-party data platform Nucleus.
Here’s why the loss of the third-party cookie is heading toward a collapse in the middle
In the absence of third-party cookies, marketers will need to work more closely with trusted publishers to reach their audiences. Who will lose out? It is posed for a collapse in the middle.
Member ExclusiveMedia Briefing: What to expect from the Digiday Publishing Summit
This week's Media Briefing previews the upcoming Digiday Publishing Summit, which kicks off on Sept. 27 and will feature speakers from media companies including The Washington Post, BDG, Group Nine Media and Essence.
SponsoredHow retailers can be ready for holiday shoppers this year
Suchi Sastri, managing director and partner, Boston Consulting Group As the holiday season approaches and the pandemic continues to evolve, retailers want to know what to expect. Will e-commerce continue to grow at the rate it did last year? How big of a role will in-store shopping play in holiday shopping? While it’s still early, […]
How the pandemic has been a real a buzz kill for office happy hour bonding, culture
As COVID-19 crawls on, more companies are rethinking the wisdom of mixing booze and the stresses of the workplace.
‘Football has lost its soul’: How Copa90 is repositioning itself around the creator economy
Copa90’s overseers believe there’s another shift happening in tandem with the corporatization of the sport that has the potential to be just as transformative