News

Palo Alto Weekly selected to participate in national journalism project

In era of revenue declines, intensive training focuses on helping news organizations develop sustainable business models

Embarcadero Media, publisher of the Palo Alto Weekly, is one of 30 participants in the Facebook Journalism Project this spring. Embarcadero Media file photo by Magali Gauthier.

Like news organizations across the United States, Embarcadero Media — publisher of three newspapers and six community websites in the Bay Area, including the Palo Alto Weekly — has been working to reinvent itself as the traditional newspaper business model of advertising has declined.

Now, the company is getting support from the Facebook Journalism Project to build a sustainable business by focusing on memberships, much like public radio and television stations have been engaged in for years.

Embarcadero Media is one of 30 organizations across the U.S. and Canada this spring that are participating in the intensive reader revenue program, which was launched three years ago. It is funded by Facebook but administered by the Blue Engine Collaborative, experts with extensive journalism experience.

The two-month long business training program for news publishers aims to transform grassroots membership programs into industry-leading models. It is built on three pillars: virtual workshops in which participants learn from experts about world-class best practices; weekly calls with a dedicated coach with a background at a leading national news organization; and grant funding to execute projects using lessons learned.

"We are honored to have been selected to participate in this program and are looking forward to learning how we can improve the effectiveness and value of our membership program," said Bill Johnson, president and CEO of Embarcadero Media.

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The funding crisis in local journalism started long before the pandemic but is becoming more and more dire because of it, Johnson said.

Over the past 15 years in the U.S., in excess of $37 billion in annual newspaper revenue alone has disappeared, according to the report, "News Deserts and Ghost Newspapers: Will Local News Survive?" by the Hussman School of Journalism and Media at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

"As advertisers followed consumers and moved online ... the nation has lost a fourth of its local newspapers and more than half of the journalists employed by newspapers, leaving residents in entire communities without access to credible and comprehensive news coverage of their everyday lives, as well as historic events," the report stated.

Since 2018, another 300 U.S. newspapers have closed and 6,000 journalists have been laid off, according to the University of North Carolina report.

Locally, Johnson said, "there's been a steady decade-long decline in advertising brought on by the disruption of independent local retail by online shopping. To secure the future of our company, we had already begun to shift our business model over the last two years to one built on reader support rather than on advertising."

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To date, more than 8,000 people have stepped forward to become members of one of the Embarcadero Media publications, which include the Palo Alto Weekly, the Almanac, Mountain View Voice, Pleasanton Weekly and The Six Fifty, among other titles.

"Only through a robust membership program in which readers value the role of journalism will we be able to continue our mission of providing insightful and incisive reporting that helps our readers participate actively in their community," Johnson said.

The Facebook Journalism Project's Accelerator program is focused on supporting both local and minority-owned newsrooms: More than half of the new participants (55%) are owned or led by Black, Indigenous, Latinx, Asian and/or other communities of color, and 75% focus on local news.

The roughly 175 news organizations that have participated in the digital reader revenue program over the past three years have seen increases in customer lifetime value in excess of $60 million, 200,000 new paying supporters and 2.5 million new registered audience members, according to Facebook.

Follow Palo Alto Online and the Palo Alto Weekly on Twitter @paloaltoweekly, Facebook and on Instagram @paloaltoonline for breaking news, local events, photos, videos and more.

Palo Alto Weekly selected to participate in national journalism project

In era of revenue declines, intensive training focuses on helping news organizations develop sustainable business models

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Thu, Apr 22, 2021, 9:46 am

Like news organizations across the United States, Embarcadero Media — publisher of three newspapers and six community websites in the Bay Area, including the Palo Alto Weekly — has been working to reinvent itself as the traditional newspaper business model of advertising has declined.

Now, the company is getting support from the Facebook Journalism Project to build a sustainable business by focusing on memberships, much like public radio and television stations have been engaged in for years.

Embarcadero Media is one of 30 organizations across the U.S. and Canada this spring that are participating in the intensive reader revenue program, which was launched three years ago. It is funded by Facebook but administered by the Blue Engine Collaborative, experts with extensive journalism experience.

The two-month long business training program for news publishers aims to transform grassroots membership programs into industry-leading models. It is built on three pillars: virtual workshops in which participants learn from experts about world-class best practices; weekly calls with a dedicated coach with a background at a leading national news organization; and grant funding to execute projects using lessons learned.

"We are honored to have been selected to participate in this program and are looking forward to learning how we can improve the effectiveness and value of our membership program," said Bill Johnson, president and CEO of Embarcadero Media.

The funding crisis in local journalism started long before the pandemic but is becoming more and more dire because of it, Johnson said.

Over the past 15 years in the U.S., in excess of $37 billion in annual newspaper revenue alone has disappeared, according to the report, "News Deserts and Ghost Newspapers: Will Local News Survive?" by the Hussman School of Journalism and Media at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

"As advertisers followed consumers and moved online ... the nation has lost a fourth of its local newspapers and more than half of the journalists employed by newspapers, leaving residents in entire communities without access to credible and comprehensive news coverage of their everyday lives, as well as historic events," the report stated.

Since 2018, another 300 U.S. newspapers have closed and 6,000 journalists have been laid off, according to the University of North Carolina report.

Locally, Johnson said, "there's been a steady decade-long decline in advertising brought on by the disruption of independent local retail by online shopping. To secure the future of our company, we had already begun to shift our business model over the last two years to one built on reader support rather than on advertising."

To date, more than 8,000 people have stepped forward to become members of one of the Embarcadero Media publications, which include the Palo Alto Weekly, the Almanac, Mountain View Voice, Pleasanton Weekly and The Six Fifty, among other titles.

"Only through a robust membership program in which readers value the role of journalism will we be able to continue our mission of providing insightful and incisive reporting that helps our readers participate actively in their community," Johnson said.

The Facebook Journalism Project's Accelerator program is focused on supporting both local and minority-owned newsrooms: More than half of the new participants (55%) are owned or led by Black, Indigenous, Latinx, Asian and/or other communities of color, and 75% focus on local news.

The roughly 175 news organizations that have participated in the digital reader revenue program over the past three years have seen increases in customer lifetime value in excess of $60 million, 200,000 new paying supporters and 2.5 million new registered audience members, according to Facebook.

Comments

Mark Weiss
Registered user
Downtown North
on Apr 22, 2021 at 10:39 am
Mark Weiss, Downtown North
Registered user
on Apr 22, 2021 at 10:39 am

I do not think of myself as a “member” of your club far from it but I do subscribe and I am in the small fraternity of people who use their own name but are consistently and sometimes systematically censored or denied the opportunity to say what I wish to say.
I don’t use the social media project that you were partnering with either I feel colonized enough.


Jennifer
Registered user
another community
on Apr 22, 2021 at 11:21 am
Jennifer, another community
Registered user
on Apr 22, 2021 at 11:21 am

Moderation is strict here (respect for your own paper -- respect for your readers) and that's the way it should be. People will say anything online (including me) but that's not what freedom of speech means. All comments are at the sole discretion of Embarcadero Media, and there doesn't have to be any rhyme or reason.

I'm outspoken, and for every person who is offended or upset by moderation, I'm surprised (but thankful) that 99% of my comments make it past moderation (this site and a couple others) and 100% in San Diego -- my home town... and then we moved to Palo Alto!


felix
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 22, 2021 at 11:35 am
felix, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Apr 22, 2021 at 11:35 am

Good news for community based journalism. May you long be with us. We would be the poorer without your fine work.


Bystander
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 22, 2021 at 1:08 pm
Bystander, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Apr 22, 2021 at 1:08 pm

What happened in Midtown yesterday afternoon to close Middlefield Road?

Nextdoor shows pictures of a car on its side and another in a tree. Emergency vehicles of unknown numbers raced to the scene. People were delalyed and rerouted.

We turn to the Weekly to find out the answers to these local issues. Was anyone hurt? What was the cause? Why does something happen like this mid afternoon when the weather is good? Why is there no mention in the Weekly today to give us this information?


Jocelyn Dong
Registered user
editor of the Palo Alto Weekly
on Apr 22, 2021 at 2:48 pm
Jocelyn Dong, editor of the Palo Alto Weekly
Registered user
on Apr 22, 2021 at 2:48 pm

Thanks for your questions, Bystander. We've got a reporter who is trying to get that info from the city.

This is the kind of incident that we used to hear about in real-time before the police department decided to encrypt its radio transmissions at the beginning of the year. Now, no such real-time information comes from the PAPD.

The system by which the department responds to questions -- we complete an online form and wait for an officer to get back with the answers -- leaves much to be desired. Reporter Sue Dremann submitted a request on April 5 asking for details on the burglaries at Rick's Rather Rick Ice Cream and Peninsula Creamery Dairy Store. She still hasn't gotten a response.

Similarly, the Daily Post reporters are not getting answers from PAPD to their inquiries, as they stated in a recent article. This is one reason that both of our news organizations, plus the Mercury News, have urged the city to work to solve the public-access problem that total encryption has created.


Rose
Registered user
Mayfield
on Apr 22, 2021 at 4:26 pm
Rose, Mayfield
Registered user
on Apr 22, 2021 at 4:26 pm

Thank you Palo Alto Weekly. What would we do without reliable local news -- I can't imagine! I am happy to pay monthly so I know what is happening in Palo Alto, even when I'm out of town or overseas. I don't miss a beat. In addition, the PA Weekly helps us know what is happening at City Hall and at the various services that support everything we count on here -- from Utilities to Water to Police. Last, I applaud the Weekly's monitoring of comments -- it's going well. Thank you Mr. Johnson and team. BTW I also try to support our local small businesses, rather than buying online. We can all help keep PA vibrant -- buy from independent and local businesses.


Name hidden
Downtown North

Registered user
on Apr 23, 2021 at 12:27 am
Name hidden, Downtown North

Registered user
on Apr 23, 2021 at 12:27 am

Due to repeated violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are automatically removed. Why?


Bystander
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 23, 2021 at 8:48 am
Bystander, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Apr 23, 2021 at 8:48 am

@Jocelyn Dong, thanks for your input and this is exactly what I was afraid of.

It is wrong that as residents we have to depend on social media to find out what is going on in town rather than the local newspaper. And we know how reliable social media is!


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