See below for our research team’s methods and defined terms. Please reach out to INN’s Research Director Emily Roseman (email@example.com) with any questions.
About the survey: INN distributed the survey online in January 2023 to 382 INN Network newsrooms, excluding service organizations that are also INN members. Ninety percent, or 343 newsrooms, completed the survey. Survey responses reflect performance in the calendar year 2022. Previous years’ surveys were generally representative with response rates ranging from 54% to 94%. Starting with the Index survey covering CY2020 trends, INN began requiring outlets participating in NewsMatch to complete the Index survey, which raised completion rates for the 2020, 2021 and 2022 Index surveys. Survey language is provided here. The data do not scientifically represent all North American nonprofit news outlets, since not all belong to INN, including an array of public media stations. Specific year-over-year comparisons should be interpreted cautiously; this report draws directional trends across the field.
A note on the cohort used for this report: Of the 343 news organizations that completed the survey, the data for 315 are included in this report. (Data provided by 28 members from the public media sector is not included due to systematic differences in how these organizations report revenue and expenses.) For the revenue analysis portion, 15 startups younger than one year were excluded as they did not have annual data to compare. An additional nine organizations did not provide revenue data. Thus, the revenue section of the report is based on the information provided by 291 outlets. Year-over-year financial comparisons are drawn from smaller cohorts of outlets that provided complete financial data for 2021-2022 (N = 225).
A note on medians vs. averages vs. ranges: The authors of the Index Report believe median calculations are more representative due to two factors: 1) a relatively small sample size of 343 outlets, and 2) some significant outliers that skew averages. However, for some calculations like the average donation in dollars, we are unable to calculate the median since we do not have a list of data points for this survey question. In these cases, we default to averages. We supply a range in cases where knowing the upper and lower limits of a data point are helpful in understanding the field.
Core group of digital-first, independent publishers: This term refers to the group of 315, non-public broadcasting publishers that completed the Index survey. The research team excluded financial data from 28 INN members from the public media sector, due to systematic differences in how these organizations report revenue and expenses.
Direct audiences: Direct audiences refer to the audiences using and engaging with a news outlet’s platforms, including its website, email newsletters and social media platforms. Direct audiences are largely interpreted in this report as a news organization’s web traffic (measured by average monthly unique visitors) and number of email newsletter subscribers.
Earned revenue: Earned revenue can be understood as the funds a nonprofit organization generates by providing value to businesses including sponsorship, advertising and underwriting. This contrasts with funds received from philanthropic sources, such as grants and major gifts. Earned revenue is one of the three major revenue streams for nonprofit news.
Foundations: Foundations are nonprofit organizations that support charitable activities in order to serve the common good. Foundation funding is one of three major revenue streams for nonprofit news.
Global news: Global organizations generally take aim at broad world topics or produce news of distant places. There are 22 global organizations in this study.
Individual giving: Individual giving is an umbrella term that encompasses financial contributions from individuals, including small-dollar ($1,000 or less), mid-level ($1,000 – $5,000) and major donors ($5,000 or more). Survey respondents use these shared definitions for their Index survey reporting. Individual giving is one of the three major revenue streams for nonprofit news.
Local news: Local news organizations are those that cover part or all of a community, municipality or county or a cluster of them, ranging from large metro areas to small neighborhoods. The study includes data for 145 local news organizations.
National news: 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 in Canada. This study includes 62 national outlets.
Regional news: Regional news outlets cover news within two or more states making up a region, such as a Midwest reporting outlet. There are 24 regional organizations in this study.
State news: State news outlets primarily focus on government policy, politics or topics of public interest such as health or the environment in a single state. There are 62 state outlets in this study.
Third-party audiences: This term refers to audiences interacting with a news outlet’s coverage or services but on a platform not managed by the news outlet itself. In this report, we refer to the organizations managing these external platforms as “third-party publishers.” Third-party audiences largely come from other news outlets republishing or rebroadcasting content, including on social media and other digital platforms.