Friday, March 11, 2011

A Milestone for Sustainability

As reported by Paid Content today, Texas Tribune and Bay Citizen are splitting a $975,000 grant from the Knight Foundation to build "a free, open source publishing platform for other news organizations."

Great news. But the bigger news was buried a few sentences lower, where we learn that in 2010, philanthropy accounted for just 51 percent of TT's total revenues. That's an enormous leap forward in the race to sustainability. The rest came from membership (11 percent) corporate underwriting (17 percent) and events and specialty publications (21 percent).

Not that long ago, philanthropy was considered to be the primary source now and for the foreseeable future; revenue from publications and such were considered something of a bonus. No more.

There's no particular ratio of philanthropy that is considered mandatory for nonprofit news organizations. But there is widespread agreement that it has to go lower -- much lower -- in order for these organizations to last for the long haul.

Not every nonprofit news organization will move as far as fast as TT. But the effect for the sector as a whole is to move their Mendoza Line considerably farther north.

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