Finding a model for making money with an online news start-up has been at the centre of many a recent debate within the media industry.
It has also sparked a study by Nieman and Reynolds Journalism Fellow Michele McLellan into those leading the way, in order to understand what it will take to support these organisations.
Working with research partner Adam Maksl, McLellan reviewed more than 1,000 sites before compiling a top 100 list of the most “promising sites”, which all fulfil the criteria of producing original news in a fair and transparent way and “demonstrate effort” in finding a sustainable revenue model.
There is no telling which sprouts will flourish and which will die. But it’s probably far too pessimistic to say flatly that none of today’s sprouts will ever replace any of our trees.
Some of their early findings include the growing working relationship between journalists and community members to create news sites and that most are struggling with sustainability. Revenue sources remain focused on advertising, memberships, syndication, grants and donations, while charging for access is “rarely seen as an option”.