Excluding the gain from real estate, Poynter posted an operating deficit last year of $1.3 million. About $500,000 of that loss was the result of one-time expenses, including severance costs. Through the end of last year, the Institute had cut its operating losses by 64 percent in two years. The 2015 results were reported in Poynter's annual filing to the Internal Revenue Service today.
"These results demonstrate that Poynter is headed in a positive direction, that our new business and teaching strategies are working and that we're on a path toward financial sustainability," said Poynter President Tim Franklin. "We still have work to do. But we have a lot of momentum for the future and the demand for our high-quality teaching is rising because of historic changes in the media industry."
Franklin said the Institute will close its operating budget gap even further again this year, because of continued revenue growth and expense controls.
Poynter's revenue grew substantially last year, including across-the-board increases in all major income categories -- training partnerships with major media companies, advertising, foundation grants and individual contributions. Financial support from foundation, corporate and individual contributors rose 41 percent.
That growth was fueled, in part, by proceeds from Poynter's first annual fundraising gala, the Bowtie Ball. This year's gala will be Dec. 9th, when NBC News broadcasting icon Tom Brokaw will be in St. Petersburg to receive the Poynter Medal for Lifetime Achievement in Journalism.
The institute also reduced its expenses last year, including administration costs, even while teaching a record 108,000 people from 126 countries and 44 states.
Poynter's growth is being sparked, in part, by training partnerships with leading media and technology companies like Gannett, McClatchy, Google, The Associated Press, Univision, National Geographic and GateHouse. The institute also has benefited from a growing portfolio of international work.
Last year, Poynter became the home of the International Fact-Checking Network, an association of about 100 organizations in more than 40 countries that fact-check public officials and politicians. With the backing of numerous foundations, the Institute now hosts a fact-checking channel on its website, poynter.org, produces a weekly e-mail newsletter and organizes an annual fact-checking summit outside the U.S. In 2016, Poynter also will provide training for the second consecutive year for all 100 international journalists in the prestigious Edward R. Murrow Program, sponsored by the U.S. State Department.
Even while improving financial results, Poynter is continuing to make significant investments in its future. The Institute announced this spring that it will rebuild its popular e-learning platform, News University, with a $758,000 grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and funding from other supporters. The remake of NewsU, which will be more interactive and mobile friendly, is expected to be unveiled in the spring of 2017.
A major redesign early this year of poynter.org, which reports on news and trends in the media industry, also has contributed to a surge in readership of its site. Page views are up 25 percent so far this year, and unique visitors have increased 28 percent. Poynter.org now is averaging about 1 million page views monthly. For the first time in July, more than half of poynter.org's page views came from readers using mobile devices. This spike in traffic should help boost advertising income for the institute, Franklin said.
The institute also is benefitting from an overhaul of its curriculum and teaching strategy. Poynter has pivoted its teaching programs to a heavy focus on digital storytelling and newsroom leadership, and it's providing more instruction outside its St. Petersburg campus. The Institute also is doing more of its teaching through sponsor-supported seminars and events. For example, the Institute now is offering Leadership Academies for women and minorities in digital journalism, with the backing of foundations and major media and technology companies.
Franklin also said he expects the Institute to eventually benefit from the Tampa Bay Times' acquisition on May 3 of the Tampa Tribune. He said the acquisition has strengthened the financial standing of the Times, which is owned by Poynter and is the Institute's largest asset.
"Rapid shifts in audience behavior and the emergence of new media platforms are remaking the media industry in profound ways," Franklin said. "Poynter is responding to those changes aggressively to help journalists in the midst of this transformation hone their skills and grow their careers. Training has never been more important than it is now."
About The Poynter Institute
The Poynter Institute for Media Studies is a global leader in journalism education and a strategy center that stands for uncompromising excellence in journalism, media and 21st century public discourse. Poynter faculty teach seminars and workshops at the Institute in St. Petersburg, Fla., and at conferences and organizational sites around the world. Its e-learning division, News University, www.newsu.org, offers the world's largest online journalism curriculum in 7 languages, with more than 400 interactive courses and 330,000 registered users in more than 200 countries. The Institute's website, www.poynter.org, produces 24-hour coverage of news about media, ethics, technology, the business of news and the trends that currently define and redefine journalism news reporting. The world's top journalists and media innovators come to Poynter to learn and teach new generations of reporters, storytellers, media inventors, designers, visual journalists, documentarians and broadcast producers, and to build public awareness about journalism, media, the First Amendment and protected discourse that serves democracy and the public good.
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