Newspapers as non-profits?

A newspaper company, like a public broadcaster,
could be organized as a not-for-profit, tax-exempt corporation. It
could still sell papers and advertising, it could still develop new
Internet revenues, it would still pay market wages and salaries (or
maybe better), it could re-invest in improving its own staff and
facilities and operations, it just couldn’t make a profit. And it
wouldn’t pay taxes or dividends.

Here is more.  As newspaper ads move to the web, draining a key source of revenue, I see a few options:

1. Subscription finance with high prices and few ads.  A bit like the Financial Times.  Of course this means fewer newspapers and fewer newspaper pages.  On the plus side, fewer articles would continue on other, distant pages.

2. Sleazy tabloids.  But the competition with the Internet remains.

3. Some clever newspaper coup to take over Web processing of commercial information and leapfrog over ebay and Craigslist.

4. Web products evolve into customized, print-on-demand newspapers.  A some major newspapers survive by going the hybrid route, or by merging with their web competitors.  "What is a newspaper?" becomes a question of degree and we needn’t mourn the lack of pure newspapers.

5. Non-profits would take in revenue and also raise donations by selling access to social and political networks.  What would a date with Maureen Dowd go for? 

6. Extremely partisan, low-cost "rag" newspapers, akin to 19th century U.S. experience, and paid for by subscription.  Advertisers seek to offend nobody, and thus exert a centrist influence over newspaper content.

I place virtually no weight on option #3.  Comments are open.


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