Because we at Technically Media produce journalism, I am often asked if we are a nonprofit. We are not, though we produce and distribute free information about communities, employ full-time journalists and pursue something resembling truth.
Since the question comes up often, I want to share a few of the very basic reasons why we are not a nonprofit. There are three stages to the answer.
First, because it was simpler.
Friends and I first published what was then TechnicallyPhilly.com in February 2009. By fall 2010, our work seemed serious enough that we wanted to incorporate. Though I do remember discussing the name — I’m thankful I was interested in something broader than our blog brand, resulting in Technically Media — I don’t remember even discussing the possibility of being a nonprofit. Establishing a nonprofit was more complicated, costly and involved. We were primarily trying to create jobs for ourselves, and we could get an incorporate with a lawyer we found for a few hundred bucks.
Next, we continued the for profit path because we were experimenting with revenue.
One of the central philosophies that first brought us together was a belief that local news needed true, genuine experimentation with business model. We didn’t know what the right path was, but we were willing to put the work in to find one. Given that uncertainty and vaguely knowing that nonprofits had some constraints on earned income, it made sense to continue as a for profit.
Today, we remain a for profit in large part due to ideology.
I believe local journalism is important, and I believe we only got the journalism many people today celebrate because of profit. I believe news organizations have to make more money “on the popcorn” and think of themselves more as catering businesses.
Nonprofit news organizations that leverage philanthropic dollars are important. I still often consider whether we should have or be associated with a nonprofit partner for just that reason. So I don’t stand in opposition to that tax status. But I believe we also want journalism produced by commercial newsrooms that use journalism to solve problems that people will pay for.
To put it simply: Nonprofits fill policy gaps. For profits fill market gaps. I believe aspects of journalism fit into both, but I believe a commercial model is important to exist in local journalism. We want a robust for profit journalism community in the future, and I believe we’re helping with that effort.