News Take Episode 112: Lessons in Practicality from The Daily Memphian: “A Lot of People Don’t Know We’re a Nonprofit”

Guest: Eric Barnes, The Daily Memphian

What are some of the things to consider when starting a local newspaper? How can you be nonprofit and still operate like a for-profit newspaper? How did you attract subscribers in a competitive market? What went better than you expected and what didn’t go as well? What have you learned about finding the best revenue mix? What should someone thinking about starting a local newspaper know before they get started?

In this episode of News Take, News/Media Alliance President & CEO David Chavern talks with Eric Barnes, CEO of The Daily Memphian (Tennessee), about his experience over the last four years launching a nonprofit local newspaper. Eric takes us from the very initial discussions and fundraising steps, to deciding whether to publish a print edition or be a purely a digital news publication, to how they decided what to charge for subscriptions and how they structure their organization to allow them to employ 40 newsroom staff (Hint: It’s not on pure philanthropy!) He shares everything, from how they took cues from the community to chart a practical course for advertising, fundraising, and reporting; to why they don’t do sponsored content and scaled back on podcasts; to how they found a balance that is working for them. This must-listen primer on launching a nonprofit digital news publication is full of practical tips and takeaways for anyone wanting to run a news publishing business!

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Speaker bios

Eric Barnes

Eric is CEO of The Daily Memphian, an online daily news source in Memphis that launched in September 2018. For ten years, Eric has hosted “Behind the Headlines” on Memphis’ PBS station, a weekly news show focused on local government, business and the community. Since 2019, he has also hosted “The Sidebar,” a podcast on The Daily Memphian and radio show on local radio station WYXR, that focuses on arts, culture and everything in between. Eric is also publisher of a group of community newspapers in Tennessee, and a former president and current board member of the Tennessee Press Association. He is currently president of the American Court & Commercial Newspapers and is on the board of the Local Media Association. He is a novelist and a published short story writer, and has a Master of Fine Arts from Columbia University and a Bachelor’s from Connecticut College.

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