Ed Driscoll

Non-Profit Newspapers? Seems Inevitable

On EconLog, Arnold Kling sees one of his ideas bearing fruit:

Tyler Cowen points to this essay suggesting that newspapers convert to nonprofit status.

Over three years ago, I wrote:

The newspaper business is going to die within the next twenty years. Newspaper publishing will continue, but only as a philanthropic venture.
My guess is that we will see a number of financial models for news and commentary, including some of those listed in Tyler’s blog post. But two trends will drive newspapers toward nonprofit status. One is that as people get wealthier, they will indulge in their desire to become patrons of the media. The other is that the economics of for-profit newspapers will continue to deteriorate, particularly as they have to compete with high-quality donor-subsidized newspapers.
Most political magazines (such as National Review) are run as non-profits. As newspapers increasingly make plain their own political biases, it makes sense that they’ll move in this direction as well.

There’s also the nostalgia factor. As Kling wrote in Tech Central Station:

The “tip jars” that webloggers use are one form of micropatronage. However, I am more persuaded by a model in which content producers are subsidized by corporate philanthropy or non-profit foundations. As Kohn points out, some magazines today are funded by this model. Indeed, that is the model for the very e-zine that you currently are reading.

In the future, it may very well turn out that both independent journalists and newspapers will require philanthropic support in order to operate. At that point, newspapers, with their high overhead, will be less likely to survive than independent journalists. However, I am sure that the New York Times and a few other newspapers will have sufficent nostalgia value in the eyes of some future wealthy mogul to ensure ongoing funding.

Hey, it’s just another stone in the path to 2014.