Insights, tools and research to advance journalism

About us

The American Press Institute advances an innovative and sustainable news industry by helping publishers understand and engage audiences, grow revenue, improve public-service journalism, and succeed at organizational change.

Vision and mission

For democracies to thrive, people need accurate information about the problems of civil society and the debates over how to solve them. That requires an economically sustainable, independent and free press that is vested in the values of verification and monitoring the powerful, and is dedicated to putting citizens first, ahead of political faction.

To remain sustainable, journalistic organizations must evolve into highly adaptive learning organizations that change with their audiences. The American Press Institute acts as a scout on the frontier of technology and audience behavior to identify where change is occurring and helping news organizations learn how to implement and scale that change successfully so they have a sustainable future.

Who we serve

The American Press Institute is a national 501(c)3 nonprofit educational organization affiliated with the News Media Alliance. It works with and draws on the best ideas from anyone working in news publishing and journalism and anyone interested in its mission of making journalism sustainable.

Our four areas of focus

API is dedicated to the concept that the publishers that thrive in the 21st century will be those with a deep understanding of rapidly changing audiences. We have four principal areas of work that reinforce that focus.

  1. Understanding audiences: We use a blend of professional research methods including surveys, ethnography, and human-centered design to study the news and technology habits of the American public, explain emerging behaviors, and show publishers how to adapt. We have also created a proprietary analytics tool Metrics for News that uses artificial intelligence, expert consultation, and unique custom metrics to empower publishers to study and improve the ways that their content engages their audiences.
  2. Growing reader revenue: We study and experiment on approaches to getting more subscriptions and reader revenue to sustain news publishers, including by working directly with a diverse group of publishers to exchange insights and try new tactics based on advanced uses of data. Journalism is generally moving away from advertising support and toward reader support, and API is helping publishers navigate that shift.
  3. Accountability journalism: API has been a leader in reviving and expanding the fact-checking movement in American political journalism since 2013. Currently, API is leading the community of fact-checkers and accountability journalists toward a more audience-focused future that centers on building trust and knowledge among the public rather than only combating the claims of political actors.
  4. Supporting organizational change and transformation: It is not enough to know what changes you have to make in an organization. It is critical to understand how to successfully implement change strategies and what cultural, personal, financial and other obstacles get in the way. We do this through various hands-on efforts, including our work with the Knight Table Stakes project, Metrics for News partners who make deep strategic shifts, and our Changemaker Network that creates a unique grassroots model for newsroom transformation.

Activities and outputs

Here are some of the specific things we are doing:

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Sharing strategies and best practices
On our website we publish Q&As and in-depth reports that foster innovation in engagement, revenue models, technology and other key issues.

New metrics for news and data-informed content strategy
Through Metrics for News, API works closely with local news publishers to help them transform their news product based on a data-driven analysis of both their content and their audiences. We use custom-built content analysis software and deep audience research to help them rethink their editorial strategy and build their brand around tent-pole areas of coverage. The program is designed to help publishers improve their news coverage, build community support and rally internal morale.

Audience research
The Media Insight Project is an initiative of the American Press Institute, the Associated Press and NORC at the University of Chicago. Together the institutions conduct high‑quality, innovative research meant to inform the news industry and the public about various important issues facing journalism and the news business — such as trust and reader revenue.

Improving accountability journalism
The American Press Institute is leading a program to increase and improve the practice of fact-checking and to make accountability journalism in general more effective for audiences. The project supports research to improve political fact-checking and works with news organizations to be aware of and adopt new practices in accountability journalism, as well as contribute to public debates on the topic.

Culture change and transformational training
To help publishers become more nimble and adopt new models, API works with partner organizations in newsroom-wide transformation programs, including the Knight-Lenfest Newsroom Initiative. We help newsrooms define the skills they need to serve their audiences, assess their knowledge gaps and improve and increase their skill sets. Our Changemaker Network connects and convenes dreamers and doers in newsrooms across the country who are leading the way by example and personal initiative.

Thought Leader Summits
API also convenes diverse groups of people to bring clarity to important issues in journalism. Recent summits focused on distributed content and product management in news.

News literacy and trust
API offers resources that news organizations, educators, advisors, parents and students can use to better understand how news and media works. It also participates in wider conversations about news literacy in the U.S., advocating that newsrooms build on their NIE histories to continue show readers how their journalism works today.

This includes a section on journalism essentials, a collection of guides that explain the basic principles and elements of good journalism. Many of these guides are largely based on the research and teachings of the Committee of Concerned Journalists.

History

Founded in 1946, the American Press Institute’s mission was to help the news industry fulfill the purpose of the First Amendment – to sustain a free press in the public interest. That mission continues in the modern era.

The Institute initially was located at Columbia University’s Journalism School before moving in 1974 to Reston, Va. In early 2012, the Institute merged with the NAA Foundation of the Newspaper Association of America (now known as the News Media Alliance). The NAA Foundation was established in 1963. The new organization no longer conducts seminars, but has expanded its mission by providing research, insights, tools, and other forms of assistance to journalists and news leaders across the country.

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