A journalism professor who is researching alternative business models for community newspapers, and is about to test one of them at a paper in Kansas, will be a major presenter at the National Summit on Journalism in Rural America, to be televised on YouTube
June 3 and 4.
|Dr. Teri Finneman|
Teri Finneman, an associate professor at the University of Kansas
, is among 20 journalism professionals on the program for the summit. Most are practitioners, some are academics, and some are both; Finneman is publisher of the Eudora Times
with her journalism students.
Other speakers at the summit, to be held at the Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill
in Kentucky, include Penny Abernathy of Northwestern University
, Jason Alcorn of the American Journalism Project
, Jonathan Kealing of the Institute for Nonoprofit News
, publishers Terry Williams of the Keene
, Dennis Brack of the Rappahannock News
in Virginia, Bill Horner of the Chatham
, Marshall Helmberger of the Timberjay
in Tower, Minn., Jody Lawrence-Turner of the Fund for Oregon Rural Journalism
and Elizabeth Hansen Shapiro of Columbia University
, co-founder of the National Trust for Local News
. It will be livestreamed at https://ukci.me/ruralj
starting at 1:15 p.m. Friday, June 3.
The summit is being held by the University of Kentucky's Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues. Its director, Al Cross, said "Penny Abernathy and Teri Finneman were the first two academics we invited to be part of this event, which seeks to answer the question: How do rural communities sustain local journalism that supports local democracy? We think the answer must come not just from practitioners and academic, but from communities."
Finneman has examined possible new business models for community papers, and this summer will test one that "moves away from heavy reliance on advertising and cheap subscriptions," says a KU news release
. "If the new model is successful in use of memberships, e-newsletters, events and new content direction, plans call to distribute a new model available for rural weeklies across the country." The research is funded by KU's William Allen White School of Journalism & Mass Communications
, the Southern Newspaper Publishers Association Foundation
and the state newspaper associations of Kansas, Nebraska and the Dakotas.
Publishers might be surprised to hear that 40 percent of small-town newspaper readers in a Great Plains survey by Finneman and her research partners (Pat Ferrucci of the University of Colorado
and Nick Mathews of the University of Minnesota
) said they would be very likely or likely to donate, in addition to subscription costs, to support their local paper.
“There’s a tremendous disconnect between what readers say they are willing to support and what publishers are willing to consider,” Finneman said. “This business model we’re testing is all about being proactive if the day comes when newspapers lose another revenue source in legal notices, having a safety net in place and evolving.”
Publishers were presented with 15 potential revenue streams and asked which they would be willing to try. They were most receptive to the traditional sources of advertising, subscriptions and legal notices from governments. The least popular options were memberships, e-newsletters, direct government support and large private donations. But among the 400-plus readers surveyed, memberships and e-newsletters were among the most popular responses.
The model developed by Finneman, Ferrucci and Mathews includes memberships in which readers can get different levels of benefits. "The model will also work to engage community members, especially young residents, and focus on preferred reader content," the news release says.
The model will be tested at Joey Young
's Kansas Publishing Ventures
, which has Harvey County Now
in Newton and the Hillsboro Free Press
and will get $10,000 to participate in the experiment. “Just knowing Joey and the team there, there’s a lot of enthusiasm, there’s a passion for journalism and there’s a willingness to try, that isn’t there with many other places,” Finneman told Harvey County Now.
The newspaper's story said, "Harvey County Now hopes its participation in the project will present findings that can help other news organizations build strong and sustainable local newsrooms and enjoy some of the success the publication has had."