The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation has funded any number of experiments to create sustainable journalism, investing millions of dollars in startups, academics and more. The latest effort offers up to 10 Knight nonprofit grantees the chance to try meters, subscriptions or other methods through Journalism Online, the Steve Brill-Gordon Crovitz startup. Brill says Knight is paying Journalism Online upfront to cover the news organizations’ fees for use of its Press+ e-commerce platform.
“It gets us guaranteed cash in the door,” Brill told paidContent. “It spurs these guys to launch.” The first 10 news organizations with Knight grants to launch Press+ in the next six months will have their revenue sharing with Journalism Online waived for a year. Knight wanted to remove the barriers to trying something new.
Brill said if it works out, the amount could wind up being a discounted rate. The hyper-local New Haven Independent is the first participant to go public. Brill said he had at least a half-dozen inquiries the day the offer was announced, with two unidentified outlets already asking to be included. (Bay Citizen CEO Lisa Frazier said she has asked for details but it’s too early to say they are considering taking Knight up on the offer.)
Journalism Online has been rolling out slowly. Without providing any explicit numbers, Brill said that so far roughly 80 percent are buying annual subscriptions instead of monthly. “It took twelve years plus for newspapers to commit this slow form of suicide, it’s going to take more than five weeks to fix.”