Case Study: How The San Antonio Report Generates Three Times More Revenue than the Average Nonprofit Newsroom

Note: As of August 10, 2020, The Rivard Report is now known as San Antonio Report. See here for a message from founder Robert Rivard explaining the name change.

With funding from Google News Initiative (GNI), the Institute for Nonprofit News has launched the Ignite Sponsorship Program to enable a cohort of established nonprofit newsrooms to increase their earned revenue from sponsorships. The first plank of this initiative is an in-depth case study of one particularly successful nonprofit newsroom — San Antonio’s Rivard Report — which has bucked the typical reliance on grants and individual donations by managing to generate about one-third of its revenue from sponsorships and what it calls “business memberships.”

The case study released today by INN was written by Emily Roseman for Blue Engine Collaborative, a new consortium of independent consultants and advisers with deep experience in driving audience and revenue at for-profits and nonprofits. Contributions were made by Agnes Varnum, deputy director of the Texas Tribune’s Revenue Lab; Steve Shalit, Business Development Director at NJ Spotlight; and Chloe Kizer, a consultant on media operations and growth. A second case study, of Madison365, will be released by INN in August.

As part of this GNI-funded program, a group of six to 10 INN newsrooms will be chosen to work closely with Blue Engine Collaborative on the Ignite Sponsorship Program and receive the benefit of one-on-one coaching. Interested members should apply online by August 3 at 11:59 PT.

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Here are the five things you should know about why The Rivard Report has been so successful at generating earned revenue:

  1. It creates custom hybrid partnership packages based on client needs. The Rivard Report team works with each client to craft a tailored package that directly addresses their client’s needs. This package could include a range of elements including “flat rate” advertising (as opposed to CPM-based advertising), event sponsorship, and business membership. This method of “consultative selling” is a sales process that prioritizes relationships and open dialogue to identify and provide solutions to a client’s specific needs.
  2. The team actively builds relationships with businesses. The Rivard Report team knows building and keeping relationships with businesses is vitally important. They actively monitor businesses in San Antonio and go out of their way to discover new leads (see the Prospecting or finding new leads section for more on this). The founder largely sets the tone and expectation for his team to create long-lasting relationships.
  3. It has built a relatively large and loyal audience. With a base of 20,000 total email subscribers, 300,000 average monthly site visitors and a hefty following on social media platforms, The Rivard Report has several channels to monetize. We’ll get more into each platform later, but know that each is centered around high-quality journalism and has an engaged following.
  4. It invests in business talent and comprehensive workflows. Each of the team’s five business development leads brings a unique skill set, and the team has established a clear workflow and process for coordinating their different offerings (advertising, events, business membership) while working with clients.
  5. The team carefully maintains ethical boundaries between client and newsroom activities. In order to avoid any confusion with clients, The Rivard Report clearly articulates its ethical guidelines for advertising and sponsored content on the site.