Introducing: The Public Media Merger Project
We’re launching a new project that looks at the mergers between public media stations and local, digital sites.
As local newspapers continue to downsize or close their doors, public broadcasters are working to increase their local news staff and digital reach; simultaneously, journalist entrepreneurs have been launching digital-only startups to fill the gaps in local coverage. This landscape is creating significant opportunities for collaboration and mergers that can strengthen the quality of local news in communities around the country. At least nine of these mergers between public broadcasters and digital newsrooms have taken place since 2013. Business models for mergers of this nature, however, are virtually nonexistent, leaving both public broadcasters and digital newsrooms with no basis for evaluating viability and options for sustainable structures.
The Public Media Merger Project is supported by a partnership between the Public Media Venture Group and the Google News Initiative and is centered on business models for local public media newsroom mergers. We are assembling a cohort of public station newsrooms to participate in the peer learning and research, including WNET’s NJ Spotlight and NJTV, Colorado Public Radio and the Denverite, WHYY and Billy Penn, Rocky Mountain Public Media, and Southern California Public Radio’s KPCC and LAist, among others.
The research in the project is being led by Dr. Elizabeth Hansen. Over the next nine months, Dr. Hansen will complete the Local Public Media Playbook, a field guide for future mergers between public media entities and local digital newsrooms. The Local Public Media Playbook will be developed through research and data collection on the mergers completed since 2013, as well as an in-depth study of the mergers launched in the last two years. The Playbook will focus on the strategic, technical, cultural, mission-based, financial, and branding challenges that may be faced as a result of a merger, and will include functional information around organizational and governance decisions, financial and technical performance indicators, leadership dynamics, and commercial versus non-commercial partnership concerns.
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