Could you work with a competitor, sharing tips and community knowledge? Two newspapers that could have now ‘written the book’ on it.
News Media Alliance’s Tips for successful news publishing partnerships tells the story of how the Dallas Morning News and the Black-owned Texas Metro News worked together in potentially difficult circumstances, and provides guidelines for others thinking of doing the same.
It starts with a checklist of what you might want to achieve: provide coverage inclusive and representative; fill in gaps and leverage your partner’s strengths; reach new readers with content and cross-promotion; and grow subscribers, revenue.
Their journey – told in a 32-page NMA booklet – provides a useful road map for other newsrooms looking to expand reach, coverage, and more.
TMN publisher Cheryl Smith tells how she came to the conclusion that she clouldn’t cover all the stories she wanted on her own. “Between the two of us, we can do a whole lot more,” she says.
In the sensitive market, DMN’s North Texas editor Jamie Hancock stressed that ideas of a partnership came about before the civil unrest following the murder of George Floyd in May 2020. Rather, it came from a desire to represent the entire community, and not just a portion of it.
“The partnership has equally benefitted both organisations in ways we could not have imagined when we started the discussions, DMN president and publisher Grant Moise says.
A contract reviewed by both publications’ legal counsels sees the Dallas Morning News pay a monthly fee for weekly meetings that help with sourcing and story generation, as well as separate fees for any TMN content published on dallasnews.com or in print. Texas Metro News gets to publish DMN's stories in print at no charge.
There were inevitable problems and “false perceptions” about the relationship, but an outcome has been a set of key takeaways for success. They include thinking strategically when looking for local partners; communicating “early and often” to build trust and solidify the partnership; and scheduling regular check-in meetings to discuss stories, and how the partnership is going.
The two publishers urge the setting of “proper expectations”, putting readers and the community first, using the partnership to improve reporting by diversifying sources, and using it as a route to a better business model in all areas and departments.
More information from News Media Alliance.