One model being discussed in the journalism world as an alternative to the faltering for-profit newspaper model for the production of local news is what we call “the NPR model” – not-for-profit, supported by philanthropies. That is how I would describe the Independent, for example.
My aforementioned smart old pal Chuck, one of the founders of the incredibly interesting and innovative (and apparently economically unsuccessful) Crosscut talks about the pluses and minuses of the non-profit model:
Will employees of Microsoft or Boeing want to become subscribing supporters of Crosscut if it publishes content critical of Microsoft or Boeing? Will Seattle’s substantial and interconnected philanthropies, governed by influential people with means, want to support an organization whose mission is to afflict the comfortable? Could an exposé of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, a local sacred cow if there ever was one, be published by a news outlet whose funding is dependent on the same network of philanthropists and civic leaders? Hopefully, the answer to all these questions is yes.
But the answer also might be no.
I commend your attention to the whole discussion.
A viable business plan
Would it make sense for all of us, you and your readers, to attempt to construct a viable business model for new journalism, a model that includes income, expenses, and readership?
NPR is one possible model but does not strike me as the most viable one. I am trying to deconstruct the various parts of a traditional newspaper, assess each one for its ability to generate income or ‘value’, and then construct a new entity that reports on things like city council meetings and can survive. It is not yet clear what that entity might be. Mostly, it is not clear because I do not know why the old entity, the newspaper, survived and what it replaced nor do I know what the Internet provides and doesn’t in terms of content that people would pay for.