The annual INN Index surveyed 108 of its members (60%) to analyze their finances and operations. The study found the nonprofit news outlets brought in $450 million in annual revenue in 2018. INN has over 230 members.
Nearly three-quarters of the members surveyed have launched since 2008, an average of more than one new startup per month for almost 12 years, per4 the report.
The boom in nonprofits is likely a reaction to declining print ad revenue and the brutal competition against the duopoly for advertising revenue.
“Several currents have combined to create broader opportunities for news philanthropy. Heightened public awareness of the spread of disinformation and deep declines in the news industry, plus political attacks on the press, have by many accounts increased public understanding of the crisis in journalism," the report reads.
Nonprofit news publishers have also "stepped up efforts to engage with their communities and readers," as well as tapped into "significant training, tools and other capacity-building resources provided by foundations and other support programs to help them raise their fundraising expertise.”
Revenue to nonprofit news organizations typically comes from foundations, donors and readers who want to support them with memberships or smaller, one-time contributions.
Individuals and families now donate nearly 40% of all the revenue going to news nonprofits, according to the INN Index report.
Overall, the increase in individual-giving donor revenue was driven by donors of $5,000 or more, who accounted for more than two-thirds of all donor revenue.
Another 43% comes from foundations. Some 12% comes from “earned sources,” which includes advertising, sponsorships, events and subscriptions.
Nearly one-third of the news organizations in the survey reported having a membership program in 2018. Sixteen percent said they planned to launch membership programs.
Nearly 40% reported having four or more revenue streams and 31% had three.
Most of the revenue (59%) is going to editorial, according to the survey — with 15% for revenue generation and 9% to tech. Four out of five news nonprofits provide investigative or explanatory reporting.
The findings “point to communities rebuilding and reinventing the journalism they need. They point to growing awareness of nonprofit news and to thousands of people willing to act on that awareness and pay for quality journalism out of their own pockets. They point to new ways of providing news sources that people can trust,” Sue Cross, INN executive director-CEO, wrote in an introduction to the report.
According to Nieman Lab, another report from Media Impact Funders last week showed journalism philanthropy has quadrupled since 2009, with 17,750 total grants made to 2,369 U.S.-based organizations associated with journalism projects.