Chances are, if you are reading this letter, you are already supporting our journalism. For that, I want to thank you.
This is a very challenging and critical time for media companies such as ours. Both the business model that supports our journalism and the growing impact of “fake news” threaten our ability to serve our communities with timely investigative reporting as well as general coverage of the region. We’re indeed up to the challenge, and fully committed to keeping journalism strong in Philadelphia and the region.
For this reason, we are all the more excited about the news announced last week that the Lenfest Institute will be providing approximately $1 million in grants to support our journalism in the coming year. These grants are targeted to support key projects in our company, including: bolstering our Investigations Team (our 11 journalists now make up one of the largest I-teams in the nation); creating new Fellowships to bring diverse and emerging journalists into our newsroom to better serve and reflect our community; supporting a new state-of-the-art content management system to ensure that our journalists can deliver quality content on all platforms; funding the creation of an opinion contributors’ network; and elevating our coverage on the topic of navigating the complexities of the health-care system.
Of course, none of this would have been possible without the vision and generosity of legendary philanthropist Gerry Lenfest. He and his wife, Marguerite, have been dedicated to trying to do as much good as they can with their resources. Gerry has said many times: “There is nothing I can think of that we could do that is more important than keeping journalism alive in the city that I love.”
Philadelphia is indeed a famous city of “firsts.” How appropriate that here, where the First Amendment supporting a free press was first crafted, Gerry has created the vision of developing a sustainable business model to support journalism not only for Philadelphia, but to be openly shared nationwide.
Yes, there are challenges. We must pay our own bills in sustaining our business. Any profit we make goes right back into supporting our mission of serving you.
The biggest obstacle we face is generating revenue. As you might imagine, it takes a lot of resources to produce and deliver strong, important, and reliable journalism each day. Among the storms our revenue efforts have confronted, the most recent is that the two biggest distribution channels of information globally, Facebook and Google, are estimated to take in around 80 percent of every new digital advertising dollar. That means we incur the cost of producing the content, and they keep the major financial benefit in distributing it.
It is for these reasons that your individual support of what we do is so important, and so appreciated. It is also why we now ask that readers consider a modest subscription fee to have full digital access to all of our content on Philly.com and our digital replicas of the Inquirer and Daily News.
Just this past week, a colleague shared with me an almost shocking statistic. A 2016 survey of 199 countries by Freedom House, a U.S.-based human rights organization, found that ONLY 13 percent of the world’s population enjoys a truly free press. That means a press free from censorship and government interference, and a press dedicated to the open exchange of ideas and viewpoints. Like all precious things, that is worth paying for.
Again, if you are a subscriber and supporting our work, my colleagues and I want to thank you. If you believe what we do is important, I would also ask you to encourage others you know to also consider subscribing to our print or digital products. (Reach our Customer Service Department at 215-222-2765 or visit philly.com/subscribe.)
All the best,
Publisher and CEO
Philadelphia Media Network