Publishers must embrace the next generation of newswires

Publishers must embrace the next generation of newswires
Photo by Kyle Glenn / Unsplash

If you work in media, chances are you saw the recent news about Gannett and McClatchy scaling back their relationships with the Associated Press. These news stories on their own might not seem like a big deal—but they underscore a broader, systemic reality in the publishing industry: Publishers are finding it harder to justify the traditional newswire subscriptions that have been in place for decades.

Though these companies may not be severing ties completely—both will continue to tap AP for election coverage this cycle—their deals are significantly reduced. Accompanying these issues is the opportunity for innovation and reinvention of the newswire business model.

Stacker is at the forefront using creative business models and technology to upend the traditional newswire. Read on to see how we—and other market leaders—are approaching the challenge.

How the industry got here

Local newsrooms are faced with enormous economic challenges, often having to decide whether to pay for outside services like newswires or keep more reporters on staff.

At the Mather Economics Symposium last month, Gannett CEO Mike Reed said that AP’s articles were the “least performing content” on Gannett’s sites, a factor in the decision. It’s clear that publishers are evaluating the ROI of every piece of content they publish. The Stacker Newswire is free, but we still regularly have prospective partners asking about the ROI and opportunity cost. 

The fact is that local newsrooms have become so strapped for resources that it's impossible for them to do everything themselves. While they devote their scarce resources to hyperlocal coverage, they need and welcome outside support to cover important state- and national-level stories. But they need support in a way that empowers them without having to pay a high subscription fee for content. 

Traditional wire services require publishers to pay subscription fees, but publishers just don’t have that spending power anymore. 

Newswires need to find new operating models. 

The way forward: Embracing new business models

The good news is there’s ample opportunity for wires to serve publishers while also having a sustainable business model. 

Many newer publishers on the scene are taking unique approaches. Are they wire services? Collaboratives? Open source publishers? Perhaps all of the above. 

Word in Black has a setup akin to a newswire wherein the Black-owned publications part of the collaborative can publish each other’s stories, with some funding from Deloitte. Texas Tribune and many other leading nonprofit newsrooms have open republishing guidelines, and take in both philanthropic and member donations, similar to an NPR model. 

And, of course, Bloomberg has a healthy business in the Bloomberg Terminal, its financial data platform. 

In fact, AP recognized the need to move beyond content licensing many years ago and has been successfully building out a stronger B2C revenue stream to help stem some of the B2B losses. (Full disclosure: I spent 8 years in product development at The AP before joining Stacker.)

Stacker empowers publishers with added resources and articles held to high journalistic standards. Our platform provides vetted, high-quality content from our own newsroom as well as market-leading brand and nonprofit newsroom publishers like Chalkbeat, Edmunds, Experian, Lyft, and The Marshall Project.  

Publishers don’t pay the fees on our platform—brands do. Our editorial board is staffed with experienced journalists who vet and edit the content brands submit, holding those stories to standards as high as the best publications.

Leading with technology, analytics, and content strategy

Wire services can be tech-forward, measurable, and innovative, and Stacker is a market leader in that regard. Our operation doesn’t just leverage the editorial expertise of tenured journalists, but also a turnkey suite of digital tools for driving value through syndication.

First, we’ve solved the analytics problem. Our stories carry a reporting pixel that ties into a proprietary analytics platform that enables our content strategists to see exactly what types of stories resonate with different cohorts within our network of publishers. 

This data informs every aspect of our business:

  • The stories our journalists write
  • The time of day or day of the week we publish them
  • The third-party contributors we seek out to supplement the newswire
  • And much more.

In our mission to help publishers, we also focus on the business value of our content by identifying up-front the goals of each publisher, whether that’s pageviews, audience acquisition, or audience retention. And we tune our output and content promotion to those goals. It’s working. 

In one study with publisher Lee Enterprises, we found Stacker was a key audience retention tool for publishers: 30% of long-time readers regularly read Stacker content, compared to 10-20% for other wire services. Both Nexstar and Creative Circle Media Solutions have not only seen significant pageview increases but they’ve been able to source evergreen content that directly meets the needs of audiences they’re seeking to grow.   

While we may be seeing some challenges in traditional newswire subscription business models, there’s plenty of opportunity to bring stories to publishers using new and innovative revenue models that draw from burgeoning brand publishers. 

If you’re a newsroom ready to embrace these new models, I’d love to discuss how Stacker can help. Feel free to email me: