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2009: a remarkable year for MinnPost

In 2009, a tough year for media and for nonprofits, MinnPost cut its deficit from $605,000 to $125,000, and showed revenue increases of 35% in advertising/sponsorship and 29% from individual donations.

(This summary is from MinnPost’s 2009 Year End Report, published today. The full report is posted here. To request a copy of the printed report, email members [at] minnpost [dot] com. If you notice an error in our donor list, please let us know as soon as possible.)

2009 was a very tough year to be a news publisher, a nonprofit organization or a startup enterprise. MinnPost was all three.  Given that backdrop, we had a remarkable year.

Revenue from advertising and sponsorship grew 35% compared with 2008, our first full year of operation. Revenue from members and our annual benefit event, MinnRoast, rose 29%. Our total donor list grew 44%. Traffic to the site grew more than 60%.

One year ago, I wrote in our 2008 Year End Report: “We have not yet proven that a nonprofit model for high-quality online regional journalism will work long-term.” Today, with another year under our belts, I’d say: If we keep making the kind of progress we’ve been making, this model will work and we will be here to stay.

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After running a deficit of $605,000 in 2008, our first full year, we reduced the deficit to $125,000 in 2009.  

In part, this was achieved by reducing costs, as promised in our 2008 report. Expenses for 2009 were $1.21 million, down 20%. Much of the reduction came from cutting back on our budget for freelance payments to journalists.

But we also generated a substantial increase in our revenues, a truly impressive result in light of economic conditions:

● Revenue from advertising and sponsorship rose from $160,000 in 2008 to $217,000 in 2009.

● Revenue from individual donors and from MinnRoast rose from $356,000 to $458,000. (This excludes from the 2008 total the last payment on one of our 2007 founder gifts.)

These two revenue streams are the key to long-term sustainability. Based on these results, I am confident that we can fulfill our goal to be sustainable by 2012, relying on foundation grants only for special projects but not to keep the lights on.

For now, of course, foundation support is critical, and we are extremely grateful to the Knight Foundation in Miami and the Blandin, McKnight, Minneapolis and Bremer Foundations in Minnesota for their generous backing.

There is ample evidence that MinnPost is developing a growing and passionate audience.

In 2009, MinnPost recorded more than 5 million visits and 9.6 million page views, more than 60% higher than in 2008. (The year-to-year comparison covers 11 months of each year, since we don’t have reliable data for January 2008.) Looking only at the last three months of each year, visits rose 17% and page views 19% in 2009, even though in the last quarter of 2008 we were in the midst of electing both a President and a U.S. Senator from Minnesota. Better yet, traffic from repeat visitors was up 27% for the quarter.

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Some other exciting measures of MinnPost’s growing followership:

● The number of people receiving our daily email newsletter is now about 5,750, up 15% from a year ago.

● Our weekly Greater Minnesota email goes out to 2,600 people, up 70% from a year ago.

● More than 5,200 people follow MinnPost on Twitter, about five times what it was a year ago.

● MinnPost’s Facebook page has more than 1,500 fans, up more than 50% in just the past two months.

● The number of commenters on the site increased 68% over 2008, and the number of posted comments nearly tripled.

In 2009 we added more than 500 first-time donors, bringing our total to 1,707. And 174 donors gave more than they had the previous year.

We are proud of our journalists and the great work they do for MinnPost and for all Minnesotans. Co-managing editors Roger Buoen and Susan Albright describe some of the highlights in our annual report. You can find a PDF of the report here.

In 2009, we improved the quality of MinnPost’s coverage while reducing our spending on news. We’re starting 2010 on a plan to keep expenses for current operations flat, and to increase revenues. This will enable us to start rebuilding our reserves to assure us the stability we need for the long term. But we also will look for additional revenue sources that could enable us to expand news coverage this year.

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MinnPost has so many supporters that we wish to thank: readers, donors, commenters, volunteers, funders, advertisers, sponsors, and of course our staff, contractors and freelance journalists. Laurie and I are deeply moved by your commitment to our shared mission: to sustain our community and our democracy with high-quality journalism.