A pioneering attempt to reinvent newspaper ownership is underway in Philadelphia, where the owner of the city’s two largest newspapers, The Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News, is handing control of the papers to a new nonprofit organization, called the Institute of Journalism in New Media.
This week the reinvention took another step forward with the announcement that the institute has found a boss.
Owner Gerry Lenfest, a wealthy philanthropist who received sole control of both newspapers after his former co-owner Lewis Katz died in a small plane crash in 2014, announced that media consultant and venture capitalist Jim Friedlich will assume the role of executive director for the Institute of Journalism in New Media.
In conjunction with this appointment, the IJNM will also acquire Friedlich’s consultancy, Empirical Media Advisors, which he helped found in 2011, along with veteran media executive Jack Griffin (who later served as CEO of the newly independent Time Inc. and Tribune Publishing after their respective spinoffs).
The consultancy, which was also working with the IJNM on digital media strategy, will become a nonprofit and continue operating under a new name, adding a new source of revenue to support the nonprofit’s operations.
Friedlich’s career as an investor and consultant has given him an insiders’ view of both the promise and pitfalls facing traditional media companies as they transition to the digital media age.
Among other projects, he helped the Dallas Morning News execute a sweeping makeover last year, and he also invested in Business Insider, one of the most promising pure play digital publishers, which was acquired by Axel Springer for $450 million in September 2015.
Most recently, Friedlich helped launch Denverite, targeting millennials with lifestyle and events content from the fast-growing Colorado city.
Friedlich’s appointment comes nine months after the nonprofit transition began.
Lenfest announced back in January that Philadelphia Media Network, the newspapers’ publisher, would continue to operate as a for-profit company but would be taken over by the nonprofit IJNM, which also received a $20 million donation from Lenfest as an endowment.
Lenfest and collaborators are now working to raise $100 million for the nonprofit’s endowment.