Types of Editorial Partnerships:
Partnerships with Other Media Organizations: These are the most common partnerships in the field used for election debates and coverage at the city, regional or statewide level.
Partnerships with Digital Media Organizations: In this rapidly emerging arena, stations are increasingly collaborating with existing hyper-local websites, bloggers and other digital media entities to deepen or broaden news coverage of community issues or arts and culture trends.
Partnerships Outside of the News/Information Industries: Stations regularly engage in partnerships to present concerts or performances, to stage events for families and children, and to offer educational content for children and adults.
Partnerships to Support the Success of other Non-profits: Stations are developing new partnership models that demonstrate their broader commitment to the communities they serve, including the success of other non-profits.
Decision Making Considerations and Checklist
When public stations pursue editorial partnerships, the first big question is whether the partnership helps to solve a problem or accomplish a goal that is core to the station’s mission.
How Should You Make Your Decision?
1. What Are Your Goals?
Q: Why do you want to partner?
Q: What is it that makes a partnership editorially desirable?
Q: What is it that you hope to achieve through partnering?
Q: How do your partnership rationale and goals match up with your editorial policy?
Q: What kind of input/resources would a partner offer to meet the following station imperatives?
Reach– Access to other audiences/networks, amplification through rebroadcast or cross- platform reuse, syndication, content sharing.
Relevance- Expertise on particular topics, newsworthiness of proposed partnership content, news cycle priority around a particular date (e.g., election, MLK day, etc.) – Inclusion: connections to underserved audiences (e.g., via a special focus on topics of interest to such users, a town hall/grassroots event, a call-in show or community forum)
Engagement- Resources for users, interactive online space, prominent social media platforms and/or networks, opportunities for offline interaction, possibilities for crowdsourcing content, opportunities for culling local news sources (e.g., Public Insight Network).
Influence- Access to influential people, potential for building buzz, opening to settings and activities with a creative and/or shaping opinion (e.g., The Moth, StoryCorps).
Trust- Opportunity to enhance editorial credibility and authority via co-production/partnership with other trusted brands (e.g., The Takeaway)
2. Who are your partners?
University – Other news outlets—commercial, hyperlocal, national – Individual producers (own outlets/hyperlocal news, filmmakers) – Community media outlets: PEG, radio, neighborhood papers, LPFM – Nonprofits: Sierra Club, Girl Scouts of America, Stand for Children – Local libraries – Issue networks – K-12 institutions
Cultural spaces and institutions: clubs, coffee shops, theaters – Hospitals, “health systems” – Crisis responders – Service/civic groups: Kiwanis, League of Women Voters, Chambers of Commerce, etc. – Municipal governments
Q: Is there an appropriate partner available to match up with the station’s goal and interest?
Q: What concrete resources and assets do they bring to the table, and would they be sufficient to enable the partnership to succeed?
Q: If no available and sufficiently resourced partner is identifiable, is there another means to achieve the station’s editorial partnership goal and interest
Q: If neither an optimal partner nor a compensating alternative is available, would it be a better solution to abort the proposed partnership until such circumstances change?
3. What Can You Do to Advance the Partnership?
Q: What are your partner’s goals and how could your mutual engagement help to fulfill them?
Q: How might you align your philosophy and practice to that of your partner without sacrificing your core values or interests
4. How Can You Build In Safeguards?
Written instruments of understanding covering key agreements, contingencies, roles and responsibilities, including:
- Partner assumptions
- Concrete goals and expected outcomes;
- Divisions of labor
- Assignments of credit and product ownership/reproduction rights
- Intended project duration from start to completion;
- Implementation strategy (or work plan) with specific enumerated deliverables and delivery timelines
- Clarification of final decision making authority;
- Reporting relationships;
- Communications strategies (including social media and emerging network applications, as appropriate
- Exchanges of money and in-kind resources
- Exit and conflict resolution provisions
- Provision for an after-the-project meeting to jointly assess the project and results
- Share and align editorial policies for the purposes and duration of the partnership
- Build in structured, regularly scheduled partnership meetings, shared planning space, and specific performance benchmarks at key points throughout the partnership process
- Conduct periodic performance benchmark reviews with clear off-ramps for both sides and ‘parking lot’ options if things become problematic
5. Possible Problem Areas?
Downward shifts in the public reputation or perception of potential (or current) partners
- The unanticipated narrowing of coverage opportunities because of partnership dynamics
- Overreaching efforts by partners to influence editorial content coverage of public media stations.
- Lack of partner transparency on issues affecting public media partnership.
- Collaborator efforts to repurpose editorial content beyond the partnership’s scope and spirit.
- Contrary partner perspectives on when, how and/or where collaborative content should be aired and/or distributed online.