ONA Weekly #367: Revenue Streams Beyond The Big Three

By on July 7, 2021

hands hold up a wooden board with three soil cups with green shoots growing out of them

Revenue streams beyond the big three

Once upon a time, everyone knew how journalism publications made money: memberships/paywalls, ads and events. The industry is changing quickly, which creates obstacles to relying on the big three—and possibilities for new revenue streams. 

Experts from the New York Times, ProPublica, Institute for Nonprofit News and more have shared their thoughts on identifying creative new sources of revenue. Here are some ideas, collected from several ONA conference resources over the years:

  • Expand into new and emerging markets. At ONA15 (and still resonant today), the New York Times’ Charo Henríquez pointed out that Latin America is an important emerging market with a lot of revenue potential—but cautioned that entering emerging markets requires having a good grasp of cultural nuance and a diverse staff.
  • Sell data that you’ve collected. ProPublica, long a leader in data journalism, has gathered and built extensive data sets on topics ranging from criminal justice to health. Leadership realized that they could repurpose this data and sell it to others interested in conducting their own investigations. The result was ProPublica’s Data Store
  • Reuse content. Data isn’t the only thing that can be packaged and reused. Most publications have plenty of existing lifestyle coverage that could be repackaged into paid guides, such as “the visitors’ guide to Dallas.” 
  • Build a texting relationship with the audience. Not everyone is interested in news websites or the chaos of social media. Paid two-way SMS engagement—where you text the audience and they can text you back with questions—can be an innovative way to bring in money, deliver news and build new relationships. 
  • Create a Speakers Bureau. Many journalists receive speaking requests and it can be a hassle to negotiate and approve these case-by-case. Creating an in-newsroom speakers bureau can be a way to consolidate and organize the requests, earn some of the honorarium and also avoid the problem of conflict-of-interest when a journalist personally accepts an honorarium. 

Dig deeper: The Revenue Roundup: 6 Idea$ to Monetize Your Newsroom
Takeaway: Finding new revenue streams doesn’t have to mean spending a lot of time going out and fundraising. Every newsroom has existing strengths that can be applied to new tools and revenue models. 

We’re always on the lookout for helpful resources and tips. If you have other examples to share, please reply directly to this email.

Think like a futurist on July 12

Join ONA and Amy Webb’s Future Today Institute next Monday, July 12, and learn how to become a forecasting specialist for your organization. These workshops teach futurist techniques so that participants can take active roles in risk evaluation and priority setting. Learn to analyze how technology may affect news organizations and the communities you work with, and what this means for the future of your organization and the industry itself. You’ll leave with a toolkit to help spot emerging trends.

Our three limited-availability workshops are on July 12, August 9 and September 13. These 90-minute workshops cost $99 each. Slots are limited to 25 attendees for each session, with early access to ONA members and now to be filled first-come, first-served.

Stat of the week

In 2020, total estimated circulation (print and digital) revenue was $11.1 billion, up slightly from $11 billion the year before. Advertising revenue was $8.8 billion. According to Pew, this is the first year in their data that circulation revenue has been higher than ad revenue. 

Important dates

Career opportunities

ONA’s Career Center is an excellent resource for jobs, fellowships and internships in digital journalism. Recent postings include:

On our radar

The radar is now open for suggestions. Have you written or read a piece lately that would benefit others in journalism? We’re interested in sharing insights on trends, how-to guides, lessons from a project and other inspiration for innovation in digital journalism.

Join as an ONA member or make a donation to help sustain ONA’s mission to inspire and support innovation in digital journalism. If you’re looking to promote an event, product, job opening or other opportunity, explore options to reach the ONA community.

We also rely on philanthropic and corporate support. Contact Chief Strategic Partnerships Officer Jessica Strelitz at jessica@journalists.org to learn about the many ways to invest in our mission.