Single Topic News Agencies ‘A Growing Niche’ in Nonprofit News ”Nieman Journalism Lab
The number of single-themed nonprofits has quadrupled since 2008, according to a series of new reports of The Institute for Non-Profit News released this week. INN had 51 outlets that focus on a single topic, including The water office (water problems in the western United States) or The war horse (“The human impact of military service”) or EdSource (education in California).
Single-topic newsrooms are just a central part of the new supplemental material for the annual IUU index. This year, INN has divided nonprofit newsrooms into five smaller categories: nonprofit newsrooms focused on national and global news (which continue to attract most of the revenue from foundations and major donors); national and regional news; local news; communities of color; and single-topic journalism. Since each type of newsroom has “distinct revenue, product and audience models,” each has its own fact sheet and revenue breakdown.
“What DNA does investigative powerhouse ProPublica in New York City share with community newspaper Patagonia Regional Times in rural Arizona?” Sue Cross, CEO and Executive Director of INN, asked in an introductory note. After all, she writes:
What we’ve learned as the field of nonprofit journalism grows is that nonprofit news is not a business model; it is based on many economic models. The umbrella term “nonprofit news” covers several types of news media models aligned with their public service mission that shapes their journalism and commitments to the communities they serve.
Single-topic newsrooms, for example, tend to rely on foundations in a much higher proportion than other nonprofit newsrooms. (“Grant support has been a positive for single-topic news organizations, which may appeal to foundations strongly committed to specific issues,” the report notes.)
Readers of fact sheets may see that earned income such as sponsorship or advertising is ‘underdeveloped’ across the nonprofit news industry, but particularly among single-topic sites. .
These single-topic sites tend to be small – the median staff size is five – and also stand out for reaching their audiences more through their own platforms. Posts told INN they reach 82% of their audience directly, rather than through publishing partnerships /
Local news agencies, once relatively rare in nonprofit news, are also a rapidly growing industry. Before 2008, only one in six media focused on local news. Between 2018 and 2020, however, a total of 33 local outlets were launched – including 11 during the Covid-19 crisis alone.
You can read everything the index cards here.