A revenue reminder to start the summer

This summer, the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute’s Innovation in Focus web series will take a look at the startup and growing pains of a handful of news organizations’ new efforts to raise revenue. Those efforts range from membership models and retooling ownership to new ventures and crowdfunding efforts. The Innovation in Focus summer revenue series starts later this month. 

Before we launch into best practices, challenges and takeaways from these organizations in the coming weeks, it seems like now would be a good time to set the table to review some of the more standard revenue models that are already part of many organizations’ multi-revenue stream portfolio.

These standard models in journalism are part of eight common revenue models, often taught in university business schools as ways to generate revenue. Paying attention to how they work, separately and together, has become an important skill for journalism as the industry continues to retool, redesign and seek ways to grow revenue strategies.

These approaches include:

  1. Subscription: A fee for recurring rights to a product or service. Also known as “circulation” in the print world. This is very common with newspapers, magazines, streaming and cloud services. Many news organizations are focusing on this area, especially around digital subscriptions.
  2. Advertising or sponsorship: A fee charged to display a message about a product or service. While advertising has been around for quite a while, the sponsorship aspect, for example, around events, to engage with communities, is becoming more popular.
  3. Licensing: A fee to use intellectual property for a specific timeframe. The Associated Press and Reuters, for example, use this model when they sell their content to other organizations for use.
  4. Unit sale: A company charges a fixed, one-time price; think of a newspaper or a magazine that sells single copies at a newstand in the airport.
  5. Donation: While not a common business revenue model in the traditional business teachings, it can be similar to a unit sale or subscription, depending on how frequent the gifting of money occurs. Donations are gifts and have been common in supporting various forms of journalism.

Several other “business school” revenue models exist, which are used less frequently in journalism right now, and we’ll learn more about them, starting later this month, in the Innovation in Focus summer revenue series.

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