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Green Bay Packers
A Plan to Keep Journalism in Seattle: the Packers Model
SummaryWe are a group of P-I journalists. Our goal is to allow P-I reporters to continue serving Seattle as watchdogs and informing the public on such key issues as city politics, helping people navigate the current economic crisis, the environment, and education. Additionally, we intend to continue the work of recognizable writers as Robert Jamieson, Mike Lewis, Art Thiel, and many others.
In this economic climate, we believe our role to “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable” has never been as important, and we intend to use lessons learned by a generation of community bloggers in expanding the idea of the work done by professional journalists.
Should the Seattle Post-Intelligencer close, we intend to begin a news website to fill the void left in our community. We hope that the Hearst Corporation will start a online-only P-I that performs the important role the newspaper has played in this community, but we stand ready to continue our work for the public interest.
We are currently seeking start-up funding, but are planning to start the site anyway and look for funding as we go along.
We would immediately ask the community what sort of journalism it wants in Seattle, and to support it initially through donations to our non-profit entity, the Seattle PostGlobe. In the interim, at least 20 journalists are prepared to work as a volunteers until funding is raised.
Let us know what you think of this plan. We intend to start raising money at launch to begin paying our journalists as soon as possible. We're betting that this community will want to keep us doing the work we do. Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with your pledges of any size, so we can get an idea of the support we can expect to receive. Please consider pledging the $250 many of you already are paying to subscribe to the paper.
We also need the community's help -- particularly someone who can provide legal, business and fundraising expertise. Tell us here: What kind of online daily paper you want to see?
We believe we are at a historic moment: Communities are watching newspapers closely. Yet the level and amount of information available to the public on key areas is diminishing.
It’s time for communities, beginning with this one, to support professional full-time journalists in much the same way that communities believe the continued existence of public radio and television are worthy of public financial support. Remember that the newspapers dying today have been the traditional basic source of information that broadcasters, bloggers, and aggregating web sites have relied on for basic news coverage.
Therefore, after the initial launch of the site, we are planning to explore an array of options to create a sustainable business model, including a model loosely based on the Green Bay Packers football team.
We are exploring the creation of a cooperative, which would be operated by combination of the site’s employees and the community.
The cooperative would be funded initially through the selling of memberships, in much the same way as other cooperatives, including Group Health, PCC and REI. Subsequently, annual membership fees would provide a large source of funding for the operation.
We will become the first newspaper in the country owned by the community. That's a powerful concept.
At a time when other communities are helplessly watching their newspapers disappear, this one will not have its journalism subjected to decisions made in far-away boardrooms.
In addition to memberships, we intend to explore other avenues for funding including advertising, corporate sponsorships, as well as partnerships with other community blogs, community newspapers and other media outlets.
This is an uncertain time for newspapers, but we believe the problem lies in the traditional economic model of newspapers and their delivery method. The importance and thirst for information is still there.
We are looking at non-profit sites like Voice of San Diego and MinnPost, which are considered industry innovators. But we’d expand on their models by trying to inspire community spirit around the idea that this would be our community’s news organization. Unlike the other startups, we would begin with the advantage of already having customers.
Because of the reality that the P-I is expected to stop printing its print edition or possibly close around March 18, our focus has been on what’s doable in the meantime. There are a number of interesting ideas (explored below). We will delve into those after our launch, but none of the ideas is doable in our short time frame.
We plan to launch a daily online news site the day after the P-I closes. We will put the question to the community: How important is it to have the work continue?
We are currently seeking startup funding to pay our journalists and to hire a business consultant to lend expertise to the effort and work on the creation of a cooperative. For detailed cost breakdown, see attachment A.
Just $250,000 would pay for a three-person staff made up of a business manager focusing on fundraising and working with experts from the community to create the cooperative; three reporters focusing on city politics and helping people navigate the economy. The reporters would also share administrative, web, and editing, fundraising duties, as well as working with a $6,000/month fundraising budget ($125,000).
The $250,000 in start-up funds would also pay for a business consultant and cover the expected legal fees associated with the creating the Packers model cooperative.
We believe the community will be willing to pay more, though. More discussion on why later.
With $375,000 we would operate a larger staff, with six full time employees and a larger freelance budget for six months. In addition to the city hall and economy reporters, the money would allow us to fund the following additional positions: columnist, a full-time editor/webmaster, an investigative reporter, and an environmental reporter. It would increase our freelance budget for photographers and reporters covering other areas of interest ($250,000). It would allow us to hire the consultant and cover the legal fees.
With $675,000 in start-up funds we could operate the larger staff for a year, and pay for the consulting and legal fees for the first year of operation. And so on. The more journalism the community is willing to support, the more journalism it will get.
Building Up the Staff
Should we not raise start-up funds, the site will launch with an all-volunteer staff for two months. During that time, the community will have to opportunity to decide what level of journalism it wants for Seattle. Based on our ability to raise the above funds, we will ramp up our staffing, according to the following schedule.
Initial bare-bones budget, designed to assure initial funders it's sustainable:
Annual budget: $250,000 –or $20,000/month -- midpoint between MinnPost and Voice of San Diego’s small donor revenue.
As money is raised we would build up the staff, according to the schedule above.
Additionally, each $250,000 increment raised would go towards increasing the news operation.
We believe our fundraising goals are conservative as it does not include other revenue sources, including major donors, advertising and foundation grants. We do intend to pursue those sources as well.
The initial $250,000 represents less than 1 percent of the money raised by the P-I's 129,563 daily subscribers who pay $234 a year. Should the same number of people – whether or not they currently subscribe to the P-I – donate the cost of a subscription, annual revenue would be $30.3 million. Though many may choose not to pay the same amount to an online-only publication, reaching the $250,000 threshold would require only 1,068 people, or .8 of one percent of current subscribers, to pay the same amount as they already do.
Comparison With What's Working
MinnPost MinnPost’s message to the community is simple:
- High-quality journalism is not just a consumer good, and we can no longer depend only on the private sector to provide it.
- High-quality journalism is a community asset, the underpinning of democracy, community, and quality of life. Minnesotans who care about it need to support it, every way they can.
In 2008, MinnPost received a total of $837,000 in revenues including $338,000 in philanthropic support, $290,000 in membership support, $162,000 in sponsorship and advertising, and $47,000 in net proceeds from MinnRoast 2008 and other events.
MinnPost started in November 2007 with $1.45 million: start-up donated capital, $850,000 from four Minnesota families including Kramer's, $250,000 from the Knight Foundation, $350,000 from other donors.
Staffing: mainly freelancers
NEWS STAFF -- Five editors, three full-time reporters, 60 contributors who receive $100 for a publishable post and $500 for a front-page quality story. Most have other paying gigs on the side.
From interview with founder Joel Kramer: The freelance model appears to be working very well. Less than a handful of our original contributors have left us, and we have added many new ones, including younger ones, so we have more contributors today than when we launched. The freelance model enables us to feature a large number of talented people, with their different areas of expertise. We have, however, moved two reporters to full time.
Average number of new articles per day: 12
Voice of San Diego
Started Feb. 9, 2005. Taking the very long view, we have more revenue streams available to us than do most media operations. We have the nonprofit streams long used by public broadcasting: foundation grants, corporate sponsors and membership drives.
Civic-minded San Diego residents are realizing that journalism at its core is a public-service institution and, as it is threatened, they're going to have to fund it like they've funded so many other causes they care about, just like the museum or soup kitchen.
Funding: Started in 2005 with a budget of $350,000, mostly in seed money from one funder, and employed a staff of four -- an editor, two reporters and an office manager.
Current budget has grown to $830,000. However, it will be expanding to $990,000 shortly after getting a couple of grants.
- Advertising and corporate sponsorship: 10 percent. (We expect this to grow tremendously this year. Before now, it's all been passive. Just this month we brought our first ad sales person on. We had previously just focused our efforts on nonprofit efforts.) About $8,300
- Major Donors: 40 percent. (This is a handful of large donors, the kind of people you get the most bang for your buck. Local business giants turned philanthropists.) $332,200
- Foundation grants: 25 percent. (Local and national foundations that fund everything from local quality of life, environment and journalism in general.)
- Donations: 25 percent. These are the people gave anywhere from $35 to $10,000.
Staff has grown to 11, including nine professional journalists who make $35,000 to roughly $70,000. It also employs a stable of experienced freelance writers.
Created to fill the gaps being left by the existing media. Those gaps have grown at a rapid pace since then.
What it looks to do is fill those gaps by doing exclusive investigative and in-depth reporting into core San Diego quality-of-life issues: politics, education, housing/economy, environment, public safety and science/technology (a vital piece of the local economy and culture).
It doesn’t cover anything unless it can be done better than anyone or no one else is doing it. It can be tempting to try to be everything to everyone, but then you end up a mile wide and an inch deep.
Started off basically with an exclusive focus on political/government reporting, and have slowly taken on new subjects as we've been able to increase our staff size. The gaps we were created to fill keep growing, and if we are fortunate to continue growing, we will analyze those gaps at each step in the road and deploy our resources accordingly.
SITUATION IN SEATTLE
Revenues and sources-subscriptions, news stand, advertising, other, geographic distribution
Initially we’d rely on a pledge drive around the idea of continuing the P-I’s work. We believe $250,000 is conservative and the potential exists for a much larger staff, considering:
* The P-I currently has 129,563 daily subscribers who pay $234 a year. Should the same number of people – whether or not they currently subscribe to the P-I – donate the cost of a subscription, annual revenue would be $30.3 million.
One consideration is that unlike other start-ups like Crosscut, the online successor to the P-I already has a proven market, in which customers are willing to pay for the information. We’re assuming 1/15th of revenue from current subscribers.
Public radio gives a glimpse of other potential revenue. Since non-profits are restricted in selling advertising, public radio raised money from corporate sponsors in lieu of advertising. KPLU’s former corporate sponsorship person, who was part of the station’s development team, believes that raising similar amounts is realistic.
* KPLU, according to its annual report, raised $2.9 million in pledges from its listeners, again above our projected budget. It raised a total of $7.1 million, including corporate sponsorships and foundation grants, which we intend to pursue as well.
* KUOW, according to its annual report, raised a total of $8.7 million, of which $4.6 million came from listeners – again far more than our projected budget.
A. Listener Support ....................... $2,998,604
B. Corporate Sponsorship ............. $2,074,371
C. Donated Facilities and General Support from PLU ... $1,124,344
D. Foundations & Grants .................. $172,688
E. Other Income ............................... $209,521
F. CPB Community Service Grant ...... $571,477
Support and Revenue ................ $7,151,005
Individual support $4.6 million
Business support $2.7 million
Institutional support $715,000
Other support: $584,000
Total: $8.7 million
The real Green Bay Packers
The Packers are the only non-profit, community-owned major league professional sports team in the United States. The team is literally owned by its fans.
Presently, 112,088 people (representing 4,750,936 shares) can lay claim to a franchise ownership interest, according to the Packers web site (http://tinyurl.com/5769dd).
Shares of stock include voting rights, but the redemption price is minimal, no dividends are ever paid, the stock cannot appreciate in value, and there are no season ticket privileges associated with stock ownership. No shareholder is allowed to own more than 200,000 shares, a safeguard to ensure that no one individual is able to assume control of the club....
The response to the 1950 [stock-sale] drive was inspiring, with people from all across Wisconsin, as well as former Green Bay residents living in other states, coming forward to buy the $25 shares of stock. Roughly $50,000 was raised in one 11-day period alone. Reportedly, one woman from a farm near Wrightstown, Wis., showed up at the team's offices with $25 worth of quarters in a match box. A total of about $118,000 was generated through this major stock sale, helping to put the Packers on a sound financial basis once again.
More from Wikipedia.
The Stranger is running a poll asking readers if they'd support a post-P-I, possibly a la Green Bay Packers. So far, more than 65 percent say yes:
Here is the Stranger's earlier proposal of a Packers model,which in turn prompted a little bit ofbuzz:How could such a company could provide news in Seattle? If 600,000 people in Greater Seattle or the US contributed $25, then $15 million would be raised... enough to keep Art Thiel, Robert Jamieson, Mike Lewis and more than 100 P-I staffers working and providing local journalism. So you -- the public -- keep a voice alive for $25.
For recurring revenue, $99 annual subscriptions (or donations, if deemed nonprofit) by 150,000 people would generate nearly $15 million. That's half the price of current annual subscriptions.
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Keyword tags: Art Thiel fans Green Bay Packers Huskies Journalism Mariners News Paper poll Post Intelligencer Robert Jamieson Sea Hawks Seattle Seattle PI Sounders The Stranger
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|wnalyd||The issues with the Packers model||7||Mar 12 2009, 7:59 PM EDT by Anonymous|
Thread started: Mar 2 2009, 1:31 PM EST Watch
Let me say upfront: I am not against the Packers model. I'd probably be more inclined for this to be more of a co-op than something like the Packers, but in itself the idea has serious merit.
But let me play devil's advocate (as usual):
1. A newspaper is not a sports team. Sports in this country elicit a much deeper level of passion than journalism. Can you translate the Cheesehead mania of Wisconsin into Globe-Mania here?
2. You still run into the substitution problem -- the Times offers the same content for free. Dropping the model as-is on the P-I would be a disaster. New wine into old wineskins. You have to make the new P-I distinctive, cover new niches, and be worth the cost.
3. $99 is a lot to drop as a lump sum. If it were me, I might offer the Packer-Intelligencer at a monthly fee. I think people might be willing to pay $10/month IF they really were getting a lot more than they would from the Times or local bloggers.
4. Ultimately, though, there's one big problem with this model -- people who buy shares will get nothing in return but a nice certificate and some good feelings. In the case of the Packers, it connects right to that passion -- Granddaddy saved the team in 1950. I just don't see people feeling the same way here. You would need to offer more than just the certificate and good feelings (e.g. FREE P-I FOR A YEAR! FOUNDER'S DISCOUNT ON SUBSCRIPTIONS FOR LIFE! NEVER SEE AN AD ON THE SITE EVER! FREE ADMISSION TO P-I SPONSORED EVENTS LIKE LECTURES! INCREDIBLE DISCOUNT CARD OFFERS! THIS LOVELY TOTEBAG!)
Again, not against this idea. I do wonder, though, if the Packers model is a "one time" scheme to gather the capital needed to get going, and if it is, you need to think about how you're going to get money AFTER the initial seed money runs out.
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|Anonymous||rates per thousand||1||Apr 14 2009, 1:43 PM EDT by Anonymous|
Thread started: Mar 17 2009, 8:21 AM EDT Watch
The Pew report just released stated that online ad rates are right now averaging 26 CENTS per thousand. That's not going to support very much...and there is nothing driving that rate UP...If anything the glut of "inventory" on the web will drive it DOWN.
Weigh that against the fact that the barrier to entry for publishing is the cost of a computer and an internet connection and you have an army of ever shifting bloggers willing to devote their lives for little return and it amounts to a Jihad against traditional journalism.
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|ThinkerFeeler||Partisanship and funding||1||Apr 14 2009, 1:40 PM EDT by Anonymous|
Thread started: Mar 10 2009, 1:26 AM EDT Watch
Some people want a left-leaning news source. Others want a right-leaning news source. And peoples' preferences may determine whether they're willing to donate to (pay for) your news.
Do you plan to be non-partisan?
|Anonymous||More issues with the Packers model||3||Mar 5 2009, 12:20 PM EST by wnalyd|
Thread started: Mar 3 2009, 10:03 PM EST Watch
Let me say first thing that Mike Lewis is reason alone to support this plan. I have enjoyed his writing for years, and would hate to see such a talented writer go without a venue. I hope he gets hired by the Seattle Times. The packer model would be compelling if seattle was a small town or city that didn't have a lot of other choices for news. Seattle has two newspapers. If the PI closes and goes to a web format, seattle will have one and a half newspapers. You can find local news in the stranger and the weekly, and seattle's two city magazines seem to be doing okay. The city has four or five television stations that provide local news, two public radio station that provide local news and several commercial stations that provide local news. There seem to be many neighborhood websites you link to that provide news about neighborhoods, but i they seem to suck. And that is the reason why i am having a hard time understanding why people would pay for MORE local news when there is already a ton out there.
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