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Reader revenue emerges as a philanthropic measuring stick

As revenue models change, so too are the ways funders assess the fit between a news organization and its audiences' needs, including factoring in reader revenue as an indication of health and impact.

A new wave of funders are using reader revenue as an indication of how valuable a news organization is to its audiences, as articulated in this op-ed interview with The American Journalism Project.

This trend reflects how parts of local and national philanthropy are realigning around the role of news and information in community life, civic engagement, health, and democracy and retooling how they assess potential grantees accordingly. Their adoption of reader revenue metrics connects the urgency for revenue diversification with the powerful potential for philanthropy to support new ways of approaching sustainability.

The American Journalism Project will measure the health of publications largely through their ability to raise other money, such as through memberships or reader donations. To receive support, a publication will need to demonstrate that readers consider it valuable.

It’s worth noting here that lower-wealth communities may not express support in this clear-cut financial way, and that funders are still working on the nuances of this overall mindset.