News — You’re Doing It Wrong

News — You’re Doing It Wrong

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Yikes. How’s a nonprofit news organization supposed to take that? The tweet by CUNY journalism professor and industry expert Jeff Jarvis sparked quite the exchange with Voice of San Diego’s Scott Lewis last week.

Jarvis called in to join Lewis and co-host Andrew Keatts on this week’s podcast to explain what he meant, what entrepreneurs can learn from nonprofit news (and vice versa), along with his five rules for philanthropy-funded journalism. Here are some of the takeaways from Jarvis’ interview.

Yes, much of the news industry is broken.

“The best journalists are a finite resource. We should put them where they’re most needed and most valuable. And this is a larger discussion about getting rid of a lot of the commodity news we have. You know, the junk of TV news, the repetition of so much of what we do. You go into any story in Google News and look at a topic and you’ll find a thousand articles on the same thing — we can’t afford that kind of waste.”

Nonprofit news orgs need to get smart, and diversify.

“Now the smart organizations that are sustainable, that have lasted – Voice of San Diego, Texas Tribune, ProPublica – put a lot of resource into development and fundraising and events and other revenue streams. Part of the problem here is that a lot of these organizations don’t.”

Wait, did he just solve the impossible future of advertising?

“We can improve the advertising but the way we can do that is by getting past the notion that we’re in the mass media business still, that we’re in the content manufacturing business still. I think that we’ve got to be in the relationship business, and we have to know more about people.”

Download the rest of the episode below. Like what you hear? Subscribe for free on iTunes, and show the podcast some love with a five-star review.

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Catherine Green

Catherine Green

Catherine Green is deputy editor at Voice of San Diego. She handles daily operations while helping to plan new long-term projects. You can contact her directly at catherine.green@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.550.5668. Follow her on Twitter: @c_s_green.

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5 comments
Kelly Abbott
Kelly Abbott memberadministrator

I am a big fan and supporter of Voice. The work being done here - to be compared with ProPublica and The Texas Tribune - really is the highest of caliber. We're lucky to have it. 


Also, I'm a big fan of Jeff Jarvis. His observations on media are right up there with Ken Doctor (of Newsonomics fame) as essential reading for anyone interested in #journalism. I'm looking forward to listening. 


That said, if this is the right venue for feedback, I'd like to see perhaps not less advertising but better ads. The ad unit kills the experience and I'm sure can't be very good ROI for the advertiser. Also it feels less integrated into the spirit of the publication which is, as noted, about relationship-building. I wonder what would happen if we supporters ponied up enough to create an ad-free Voice. It would go a long way toward emphasizing the community-driven aspect of support around here. I'd welcome a more personal touch from the major advertisers as well. Specifically, I'm thinking fewer banner ads and more space for content and notifications and more opportunities for in-line, effortless donations and signups. 


Last, it's also important to note that Voice is a startup. Its success is derived from being able to innovate and it's clear that there's a real effort to keep improving the technology as well as the content. Voice is improving at a more rapid pace every year. 

Mark Giffin
Mark Giffin subscribermember

" I think that we’ve got to be in the relationship business, and we have to know more about people.”

Sounds like a renaissance to me. 

In another lifetime, when I sold Advertising for my family publication, It was all about relationships and knowing ones clients.

Would love to get your board members Bob Page or Gail Stoorza-Gill to chirp in on this story. I think they would agree.