Alaska’s largest for-profit newspaper has scooped in $47,000 in community donations for its COVID-19 news coverage.
The Anchorage Daily News has made an average of $783 a day on donations for the 60 days since it began its call for help in April.
The newspaper partnered with the Local News Foundation to replace gone-missing ad dollars with reader donations — funds to be used for community and coronavirus news coverage.
ADN is owned by the Binkley Co, which purchased it for $1 million in a bankruptcy proceeding in 2017, after wealthy East Coast millionaire Alice Rogoff had run through her available funds to support the paper.
The ADN signed up for the COVID-19 Local News Fund project of the Local Media Foundation, which is the 501(c)(3) organization that parallels with the trade group known as the Local Media Association.
The newspaper then launched its donation drive April 10, and quickly reached a $30,000 landmark by April 21 — $2,727 per day for the first 11 days. Since then, the donations have slowed, but the newspaper is still getting about $340 a day in gifts, in addition to its usual revenue streams.
Overall, 489 people have donated to the ADN’s COVID-19 project since its inception 60 days ago, with an average donation of about $100.
The donations are enough to support several staff members or contractors, if the money keeps coming to the ADN.
Donors include several members of the ADN’s own news staff, and also some well-known names from public broadcasting’s world. One of the larger donations came from Ira Perman, who donated $1,000 to the newspaper at the beginning of the donation drive. Perman is the executive director of the Atwood Foundation, which gives out journalism grants.
Donors to the ADN have the option of keeping their names and amounts private on the GiveButter website that collects the money for the newspaper.
The ADN has done markedly better than the vast majority of the 270 newspapers that are signed up for the project to support their organizations’ COVID-19 reporting. Many of them are getting nothing or next to nothing in donations. ADN is in the top tier for achievement in this project.
The Anchorage paper has bested others in its class like The Bellingham Herald ($40,000), Miami Herald ($36,726), Aspen Times ($50), and Idaho Statesman ($22,000).
A few newspapers have raked in the donations for COVID-19 reporting in a short period of time: The Sacramento Bee has over $138,300 in donations to date, while The Portland Press in Maine has pulled in $61,878.
“Anchorage Daily News kicked off its campaign April 10, and with a cadence of appeals across print and digital, Editor David Hulen has helped rally hundreds of individual donors to support their local Alaska paper,” the Local News Fund reported. It’s clear to the Local News Foundation that Alaska’s largest newspaper has executed its donation campaign effectively.
The state with the most newspapers participating in the donation project is Oregon, with 46 of that state’s newspapers signed up. Most are not receiving any meaningful help from their readers, however.
The ADN is the only newspaper in Alaska that has used the Local News Fund’s donation mechanism, but with success it has been able to muster, it is no-doubt looking at how to further segment news projects into salable products, like COVID-19 has been, and to market them to donors. This would allow the newspaper to move to a hybrid model of donations, ad sales, subscriptions, and grants from foundations, such as the ProPublica grant that supported the Pulitzer Prize winning reporting on law and order in Alaska.
AdWeek reports that advertising revenue has declined 30 percent since February, when COVID-19 first started impacting the economy. But it’s not over for media, experts say, even if the economy is opening up.
“And media companies’ bottom lines are expected to get even uglier next quarter when the full effects of the crisis will be felt on their earnings,” AdWeek wrote on May 8.
All news organizations (including this one) have had to make adjustments to prepare for a long economic downturn, particularly in Alaska, where the triple whammy of oil, tourism, and COVID-19 have created what looks like a possible depression.
But if the ADN succeeds in its crowd-sourced funding revenue stream, the newspaper may be able to remain in the black and weather Alaska’s economic climate change for months.