Commentary

Why Journalism Matters In The New Revenue Model

Bill Church, SVP of news, Gatehouse Media

Noting the recent rainy days here, he says, “We apologize if you don’t get sunstroke when you come to Austin.” And continues: 

This industry is changing so much. One of those places where we have our corporate headquarters, vendors come for a few minutes and head to Sixth Street or Rainy Street.

How do we intersect in this really crazy environment? Emerging news deserts, it is a growing concern. During my time as a Harvard Nieman Fellow, looking at where industry was going, over 10 years, 20,000 jobs were lost in journalism. Parking lot attendant jobs grew by 12K. This is the dynamics of what is happening in our industry.

Newsrooms have been pretty good at recognizing that they’ve got to change. Take responsibility for revenue that has always been part of the wall that‘s existed. Slow, compelling reason to want to do it. There are opportunities where we see some hope. 

Plan for sustainable local news at SacBee, goal of 60K digital subscribers. You can run a healthy operation if that happens. Important for our newsrooms to take ownership as we move forward. 

In Sarasota, where I was editor, market study showed 50% of readers carry guns. These were folks who were avid newspaper readers, in many ways, reflective of our core audience. “The Gun Writer” was created to address these people and expand from there. Site is doing well with a national podcast. You have to take chances. They found a passion topic, found audience, connecting with good quality content.

Innovation team in Austin has looked at how to monetize content, started out as a digital problem, take good enterprise and give it the same design field that we would in print. Worked with colleagues in revenue to create a branded studio option. A narrative, plug and play, launched in April and it is six figures right now. 

Off-line opportunities, Texas Tribune, Festival. Cap Times Idea Fest. Huge revenue opportunity.

Oklahoman acquisition means we now have properties in the Big 12 markets. Gives us opportunities in sports verticals.

Gatehouse has real focus on live events, differsify revenue streams. I love the “Best of” events that haves aluanched throughout Gatehouse. In Sarasota, easily cleared six figures. Tim Tebow was guest. First time I’d seen my sports staff in dress shoes and a blazer. Turned into a singular event. Something no one can own as well as your local newspaper.

Where else do you get to meet Miss Texas and a whole calvalcade of entertainment.

If newsrooms don’t start contributing to the revenue model, we’re going to disappear. Editors have become more receptive to idea that content has an audience but we have to figure out a way to connect with it. 

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