Recipes for revenue recap: Watch our Hangout with ProPublica’s Celeste LeCompte

By on September 27, 2017

What do news products, trampolines and edible flowers have in common?

ProPublica Vice President of Business Development and ONA Board Member Celeste LeCompte drew parallels between the news industry and other businesses during a Google Hangout presentation Sept. 20 on revenue and creative news products to fuel an organization.

She talked about visiting a go-kart factory in China as a business reporter, where she discovered they were also manufacturing trampolines. It turned out the skills needed to manufacture go-carts were similar to the skills needed to manufacture trampolines. When they expanded their business, rather than asking what else they could make for their existing market, they asked themselves what else they may be good at manufacturing with the same skills.

“It’s not a go-kart business,” she said. “It was this crazy machine-bending, metal-piping, powder-coating and spring-attaching business. And that got me thinking about the ways in which companies make their money.”

LeCompte now examines how these principles apply to the news business, and how organizations can take a similar approach for conceiving news products.

“It started to occur to me that maybe the way that we should be thinking about making money in news should not be as an article business, or a story business,” she said. “Rather, we’re creating knowledge, we’re building communities, we’re making connections, we’re telling stories and we’re distributing information to the communities that we’re a part of.”

In the presentation, LeCompte gave several examples of times she’s applied these principles during her time at ProPublica and of others in the industry. She also talked through processes she recommends taking with your team to think more creatively about how you can monetize your knowledge-sharing, information-distributing business. She discussed specific tactics, such as cultivating a relationship with both audience and relevant sponsors and partners, crowdfunding, events and more, as well as questions to prompt idea creation.

Above all, she says, “It’s not about being good with numbers and math; it’s understanding your strengths and your audience. We are storytellers in this business… that’s all we’re asking to do in the business side as well. When you’re creating real value for an audience, you probably have an opportunity to ask them to compensate you for that.”

Watch the whole talk below, then let us know what ideas you experiment with once you get going!


Meghan Murphy

Meghan Murphy is ONA's Director of Programs. She is currently leading the AI in Journalism Initiative and ONA's emerging technology strategy. She is responsible for creating programs and initiatives to train ONA members and connect them to tackle big issues facing our field.