Print newspapers are struggling-public broadcasting may have some solutions

this Chicago Sun Times need help. After being bought and sold many times in the past ten years, the 73-year-old newspaper is looking for a more stable home to continue its award-winning report-it may finally find it in an unexpected place: a family radio station.

Chicago Public Media, which owns the WBEZ radio station, is currently working with Sun Times merge. The final transaction will combine their newsroom and audience, hoping to create a financially stable enterprise for the two teams. Similar mergers and acquisitions have become a common way to support the troubled printing industry, but if broadcasting is to compete with a major newspaper, it will be the first time.

“Audio is a growth business,” said CEO Jim Friedlich (Jim Friedlich) Lenfest School of Journalism, He advised CPM on potential mergers. “Now Chicago public media and other media with audio roots have both the financial resources and the confidence to take such a bold step.”

Since 2004, American newspapers Closing at a rate of 100 units per year, A speed Just speed up Since the beginning of the epidemic.In order to make ends meet, some smaller newsrooms gave up their independence and were acquired News Corp Or become a joint entity with other local media-public radio and television stations are increasingly volunteering As a partner. New York Public Radio acquires the site Gotham Pie Is one of nine similar transactions in recent years, prompting researchers to create Public Media Consolidation Project. Public broadcasting has always been a particularly powerful force, gaining a foothold in the digitization and podcasting boom (partly because of its participated), it may be powerful enough to help printing do the same thing.

WBEZ may be particularly suitable for support Sun TimesAccording to CEO Matt Moog, the station is a big name, attracting 550,000 broadcast listeners every week, and it also brings us Wait… don’t tell me! with This American lifeMoog told me that the organization “has been at break-even or better for the past seven years, even during the pandemic.”

Part of the financial health of public media stations generally involves Financial benefits of becoming a non-profit organizationListeners and viewers are incentivized to donate because donations are tax-exempt, and the organization is exempt from corporate income tax (and in some cases sales tax and property tax).They can apply for grants reserved for non-profit organizations, while retaining the right to use their heartstrings and wallets, saying that their program is Funded by “audiences like you”. In the past ten years, in addition to more than a dozen public media mergers and acquisitions, newspapers have also seen such cases. Convert to or Belongs to A non-profit organization without NPR or PBS affiliate support in order to obtain these exact benefits.

On the other hand, the newspaper is closed Attributed to As consumers flock to free websites and social media, and the resulting advertisers are not interested, paid subscriptions decrease. Between 2008 and 2018, estimated newspaper advertising revenue Down 68%, Even if the digital advertising revenue of these publications has increased. In addition, certain types of local reporting—especially public service and investigative journalism—are usually the most expensive, Friedrich said. He said that many local public service stories involve “long preparation time” and “in-depth investigation”, as well as steps related to the region where the stories are located, such as conducting environmental tests or submitting freedom of information requests to the local government.

When donations are motivated by non-profit organizations, they can help pay for these expenses. In 2016, the non-profit organization The Lenfest Institute, get this Philadelphia Inquirer Newspaper, if donated to research so support InquirerFriedrich said that under this arrangement, the resulting Donor support accounts for “key 5%” of the report’s annual revenue and is used for “digital transformation, investigative journalism, and meaningful initiatives for diversity, fairness, and inclusiveness.”

Public broadcasting adopted the already powerful funding strategy of non-profit organizations and turned it into its own.There are stations all over the U.S. Established reputation They will ask for-and accept-donations from the audience, and it is common to hear that “generous donors” agree to match donations for fundraising events or that a project is “sponsored” by a local business. Elizabeth Hanson Shapiro, chief researcher of the Public Media Consolidation Project and CEO of the Public Media Consolidation Project, said that the powerful public radio station “has established a complex development and commercial team.” Local News National Trust“As far as the main gift is concerned, they have a very strong financial support base with membership with sponsor. The business model itself is very robust and diverse. “

This may be the cost-per-thousand impressions and Sun Times Can stand up to success.Although with CPM and Sun Times To finalize the formal agreement, they are said to have taken some clues from where public broadcasting has done well.Moog said that on the one hand, he intends to apply the financial infrastructure of public broadcasting to Sun Times‘Existing efforts: News sites will no longer have paywalls, he said, but a free membership program, “just like what happened in the public media.”

Obtaining clues from public broadcasting is also very simple, which means making audio. Moog said that this is the strength of the two teams, and he said that future plans may include podcasts, “interactive audio chat” or Sun Times The staff reported from the air.The previous collaboration between these teams in audio has been successful, and Real Crime Podcast motivation. WBEZ’s vice president of communications told me that the show has been downloaded millions of times; this figure includes downloads for subsequent seasons that have not been produced Sun Times, But Moog described the first season as one of the most successful podcast products produced by WBEZ.

if Apple score Can be used as a rough indicator, motivation May perform well other Sun Times podcast Similarly, get thousands of ratings instead of tens ofThe task of presenting podcasts to so many listeners is supported by CPM’s ability to broadcast promotional materials to its millions of listeners every month, and the show is likely to gain attention due to podcast listeners’ fascination with real crimes. Got Sun Times‘Investigation report seal. In the audio world, this is a match made in heaven.

Of course, there are still risks in broadcasting and the channels they use.During the period following the acquisition and revival of New York Public Radio Gotham Pie In 2018, it was in financial distress. Earlier this year, 14 people were fired, Include Gotham PieAs one of several measures to reduce the deficit of millions of dollars.

Both Moog and Hansen-Shapiro stated that the NYPR example should not raise concerns about the state of the public media, which Moog described as “generally healthy.” Public broadcasting benefits from many of the same feel-good and “intimate” elements that give podcasters a foothold, which is the foundation of their broadcasting capabilities, especially those who Moog described as “dedicated” and “loyal” listeners. “From a podcast perspective, our ability to connect with the audience and promote some of the audio work we are doing is very important,” he said.

Hansen-Shapiro agreed. In an industry that requires a lot of capital but is tight, “the advantage of public media stations is that they spend more time in this game.”

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