Publishing online means operating at half the cost of a comparable printed paper, but online advertising is not robust enough to sustain a newsroom.
And so financially, VoiceofSan Diego and its peers mimic public broadcasting, not newspapers. They are nonprofit corporations supported by foundations, wealthy donors, audience contributions and a little advertising.
New nonprofits without a specific geographic focus also have sprung up to fill other niches, like ProPublica, devoted to investigative journalism, and the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, which looks into problems around the world. A similar group, the Center for Investigative Reporting, dates back three decades.
But some experts question whether a large part of the news business can survive on what is essentially charity, and whether it is wise to lean too heavily on the whims of a few moneyed benefactors.
“These are some of the big questions about the future of the business,” said Robert H. Giles, curator of the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard. Nonprofit news online “has to be explored and experimented with, but it has to overcome the hurdle of proving it can support a big news staff. Even the most well-funded of these sites are a far cry in resources from a city newspaper.”
Evidently we have a local one in Seattle, Crosscut.