A Google-backed local journalism project to support small publishers sidelined by large tech and media conglomerates has released its first round of Resources. They include a database of over 700 North American media outlets – across television, print and radio, and new formats such as podcasts and electronic newsletters – and a 16-page report detailing business models, the governance and diversity of the sub-sector’s workforce. Both fall under the Oasis project banner announced last March.
The results show that an industry is rebuilding itself in the face of economic insecurity by harnessing local advertising revenue and social media distribution. Many of the industry’s woes have been blamed Google and Facebook, two digital advertising giants who clashed with publishers over compensation for their original reports. At a time, news deserts – areas left underserved by dedicated information after local outlets were forced to close shop – have emerged across the United States.
But there are early signs of a resurgence in small town media. According to the report, 266 local news agencies have started up in the past five years, an increase of almost 50%, although many are operating in a gloomy financial environment. More than half of all publications surveyed make less than $ 100,000 a year, and only one in 10 publishers have revenues of over $ 1 million. By comparing, The New York Times, which saw its digital revenue surpass printing for the first time last year, made $ 1.78 billion in 2020.
One in seven of the small publishers surveyed operates in a news wilderness where median incomes tend to be significantly lower than the industry as a whole. Many are also heavily dependent on a single source of income, most often local advertising, and about half depend on the help of volunteers to function. In addition, seven of these outlets significantly rely on social media as the primary driver of traffic to their websites, while direct reader loyalty programs such as newsletters have failed. managed to generate clicks.
In terms of diversity, women are represented at a higher rate than in the news industry as a whole, representing 56% of full-time employees among the more than 170 organizations that provided demographics. Only a quarter are employees of color, which is about the same as that of the broader information industry, but well below the nearly 40% of the US workforce.
Project Oasis also used its results to publish a corresponding AZ guide for new and existing publishers, titled Google News Initiative Startup Guide. Available in five languages, the document will be regularly updated, along with the map, and will inform the company’s future work in the sector. Google partners on the project include the UNC Hussman School of Media and Journalism, LION Publishers, and Douglas K. Smith.