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future of news journalism partnerships

Journalism partnerships have been gaining popularity quickly since 2008, and according to a new research report from Pew Research Center, Journalism Partnerships: A New Era of Interest, this trend will play a significant role in the future of news reporting, publishing, and distribution.When journalism partnerships work, all parties benefit. The report authors explain:

“Legacy media outlets are looking more than ever for ways to augment what they can produce with a depleted staff, and news startups are eager to place their work before a wider audience and figure out roads to sustainability.“What these collaborations mean for the public---at least in theory---is broader and deeper news coverage, more easily accessed or discovered. What they mean for news organizations is---depending on one’s place at the table---a more diverse mix of content to offer, broader reach, and more scalable reporting.”

Some of the key takeaways from the study explain how to make journalism partnerships work and how to overcome challenges in order to sustain them:

1. Money

The report authors explain that the primary driver for journalism partnerships is economics, but often little or no money changes hands. “With a small commitment of editing resources, legacy media pick up valuable coverage such as investigative projects or in-depth beat coverage that they cannot afford on their own.”Earlier this year, Newstex interviewed ProPublica CEO Dick Toffel and learned that this is one of the reasons that ProPublica (syndicated by Newstex) partners with other news organizations. ProPublica has had 104 news organization partnerships which help to fund its investigative journalism and get its content distributed to wider audiences.

2. Interests and Location

The report authors explain, “The wired, distributed nature of the web makes it easy to create collaborations around shared communities of interest---topic-by-topic or even story-by-story.” As a result, local news stories can become national news stories with, “The borders of local news no longer stop[ping] at the city or even the state line.”ProPublica uses its journalism partnerships to turn national stories into local stories by giving its databases to local news organizations.

3. Challenges

Most journalism partnership challenges are caused by technical incompatibilities. For example, incompatible content management systems, paywall structures, and audience metrics can impede content sharing, distribution, and tracking. Remember, the primary driver of these journalism partnerships is money, so without a fully integrated technical system, the process is far from perfect. The report authors explain that today, “The default is to link to the site originating the content and let it harvest the audience and any accompanying advertising.”ProPublica is a non-profit publisher funded primarily by donors. That means journalism partnerships need to offer broader distribution of ProPublica’s content to wider audiences. In fact, ProPublica President Dick Tofel said, “A lot of traffic to ProPublica content comes through free reprints on other websites, which supports our mission to get important stories out to wider audiences.” More exposure should lead to more donations to fund future investigative journalism.

The Future of News

The Pew Research Center report analyzes five journalism partnerships that are working. You can follow the link at the beginning of this article to read the full analyses of these partnerships as well as the complete report, which includes an insightful quote from Nancy Barnes, editor of the Houston Chronicle, who said, “The volume of this shared work will increase. As non-profits become more established and credible, they will become an increasing asset to traditional news organizations. Readers don’t care where the content comes from so long as the quality is consistent, fair, and accurate.”What do you think about journalism partnerships and the future of news? Leave a comment and share your thoughts.Image: Kristian Bjornard licensed CC BY-SA 2.0