Many of the reporting sites relied on large startup grants and haven't effectively broadened their fundraising sources or extracted promises from their original funders to continue support, said a study released Monday by the Pew Research Center.
Pew looked at the 172 nonprofit news sites that have emerged since 1987. Among them is the Pulitzer Prize-winning ProPublica, based in New York; the Texas Tribune, which covers public affairs issues in that state; The Hechinger Report on education issues, operated out of Columbia University; and MinnPost on civic life in Minnesota.
These sites have a variety of sponsors, including individuals, ideological groups or foundations.
Pew said 93 of these sites completed surveys, and 54 percent said that their greatest need came in business, marketing or fundraising, compared to 39 percent who cited reporting or editing help. Nearly two-thirds of the groups said it was a major challenge to find enough time to focus on the business aspects of their operations.
Many of the sites are bullish about their futures, however, with 81 percent saying they are confident they will be financially healthy in five years, Pew said.
The organizations tend to be small, with 78 percent reporting having five or fewer staff members, Pew said. They also tend to work in specialized niches, including the environment, health and foreign affairs, the study said.