Honolulu Civil Beat, the news site bankrolled by billionaire eBay founder Pierre Omidyar, announced Wednesday morning that it has transitioned to a nonprofit model in a bid to expand its offerings to the broader Hawaiian community.
As part of this push, Honolulu Civil Beat will take down its paywall to grow its audience.
"Right now, with the paywall in place, we're getting about 200,000 unique visitors a month, so we'll see how it settles out in the next couple months," said Patti Epler, the editor and general manager of Honolulu Civil Beat."
Epler told me the expansion will include more coverage of Hawaii's neighbor islands, but she doesn't think will involve a staff increase in the near-term.
"We hope to do more with neighbor island issues and we've already started giving more attention to the Pacific region (i.e. Micronesia)," she said. "Right now we have 14 journalists on the editorial side, and three people on the business side. We've hired a new Director of Philanthropy who starts mid-June and a new investigations editor who starts mid-July (although he replaces our current special projects editor who is leaving). So I don't see beefing up in any significant way at this point."
As part of the changes, Honolulu Civil Beat will adopt a membership model and embark on a marketing campaign, presumably to attract both readers and paying members.
Honolulu Civil Beat, which is now six years old, becomes the latest news organization to join in what has become a boom in nonprofit news over the last decade. As traditional forms of revenue have dried up at community news organizations across the United States, nonprofit newsrooms have sprung up to fill the gaps in coverage. A 2013 report from the Pew Research Center noted that nonprofit news organizations covering investigative news, foreign affairs, the environment and arts and culture were on the rise.
There's no indication that Civil Beat is running short on funds, however. In her post, Epler notes that Omidyar plans to continue funding Civil Beat. But the outlet still wants to develop its own streams of revenue, in part to strengthen its ties to the community, Epler says.
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