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Funding Journalism in the Digital Age

Business Models, Strategies, Issues and Trends

Jeff Kaye and Stephen Quinn

The news media play a vital role in keeping the public informed and maintaining democratic processes. But that essential function has come under threat as emerging technologies and changing social trends, sped up by global economic turmoil, have disrupted traditional business models and practices, creating a financial crisis. Quality journalism is expensive to produce – so how will it survive as current sources of revenue shrink? Funding Journalism in the Digital Age not only explores the current challenges, but also provides a comprehensive look at business models and strategies that could sustain the news industry as it makes the transition from print and broadcast distribution to primarily digital platforms. The authors bring widespread international journalism experience to provide a global perspective on how news organizations are evolving, investigating innovative commercial projects in the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, Norway, South Korea, Singapore and elsewhere.
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7 Family ownership and trusts

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In Greek mythology Zeus, the king of the gods, had a goatskin shield or a goatskin slung over his shoulder as a piece of armor. This gives us the concept of the aegis, from the Greek word for goatskin, meaning a protector or patron. Some of the biggest and most prestigious titles and brands in journalism have thrived because they are protected by family trusts. They enjoy more freedom to innovate and remain truer to journalistic ideals than corporate entities beholden to shareholders and quarterly results. But this unique form of ownership has not made media houses any less vulnerable to recession. Some of the family trusts that succeed financially employ some kind of revenue-generating mechanism outside of their prestige journalism title. This chapter describes the structure of media trusts at some well-known media organizations and outlines how they operate. It also acknowledges that some family trust titles have gone into decline under the control of more recent generations of the family who have neither the interest nor the smarts to keep the company going, or simply want to cash out.

The essence of this chapter is simple: In tough economic times dedicated media companies do whatever is needed to protect the core journalism. Sometimes it is not about having a better or smarter business model than anyone else. It is about being willing to focus on the long term – keeping one’s eye on the prize – and appreciating the influence of structures on how a...

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