By Michele McLellan and Ha Ta
Aug. 8, 2023
Definition: National organizations focus on public affairs issues that affect the entire country. “National” in this context largely means the United States, except for two survey respondents that cover national news in Canada. Global organizations generally take aim at broad world topics or they produce news of distant places. This study covers 62 national and 22 global organizations, collectively making up 20% and 7% of the field, respectively.
National and global news organizations are the oldest and most established group of nonprofit news outlets. Their prominence and reach dwarfs the rest of the field, and as a group they receive more foundation funding than their local, state and regional counterparts.
More than half (55%) of the national and global outlets in this study have been operating for a decade or more. Additional organizations have launched at an average rate of about four per year since 2012. However, only one national outlet and no global outlet launched in 2022. The bases of operations for this group are heavily concentrated in the Northeast and in Washington, D.C.
Mission and impact
National and global outlets are most likely to produce analysis and explanatory reporting and investigative reporting. Nearly half cover a limited number of related topics, such as environment, education or health typically under a common umbrella of policy. Well over one-third specialize in a single topic.
In keeping with a primary mission of producing analysis and explanatory journalism, 85% of these outlets say building knowledge around a complicated topic is a top priority, according to our survey in 2022.
The top three topics this group covered in 2022: Equity, inequality and justice, and environment and climate, and politics.
Change over time in the makeup of INN member outlets’ primary mission
About one in five of these organizations say serving communities of color is a primary mission, about the same as the field as a whole.
The majority of national and global organizations enjoy much larger budgets than their counterparts. Median revenue in 2021 was just above $1.2 million, about the same as in the prior two years.
More than half (54.4%) generate yearly revenue of $1 million or more while only one in six operates on less than $250,000 annually.
National and global outlets enjoy strong support from foundations that provide nearly half of all revenue for this group and from a mix of small donors and major gifts of $5,000 a year or more. Earned revenue from sources such as advertising, sponsorship or events plays a much smaller role in the revenue mix.
Share of foundation funding
Foundation support for national and global outlets outstrips the size of this group of outlets within the nonprofit news field. They employ half of the field in terms of staff size and represent about one-fourth of the total number of nonprofit outlets. Yet they bring in close to 60% of foundation dollars for nonprofit news.
With their prominence and reach, national and global organizations are well positioned to continue to expand their donor base. At the same time, some of the national foundation support they enjoy could shift to resources for the rapidly expanding local nonprofit news ecosystem.
The median number of personnel in this group is 10 and the number of paid employees per organization ranges from 0 to 144. Seven in 10 FTE are allocated to editorial activities while the rest have duties including revenue generation and technology.
Nearly four in 10 (38%) of all personnel in this group are people of color, as are one third (32%) of the top executives, meaning this group is more diverse at the top than its counterpart organizations. People of color make up 40% or more of all personnel at four in 10 outlets, while fewer than one in 10 reported no employees of color.
More than half of national and global outlets say they reach most of their audience directly via their own platforms or newsletters. Three in 10 say third-party platforms are the primary way they reach their audiences and the rest say they use a mix of the two.
As a group, national and global nonprofit outlets estimate their work was republished regularly by more than 3,300 third-party publications, primarily news websites and print newspapers. The median number of publication partners per outlet was 12.