At The Seattle Times, 70 percent of revenue now comes from readers

2023-01-25. “You can have the most sophisticated funnel, the best retention tools on the planet, spend a fortune on your tech stack, but if your content is bad, if you’ve gutted your newsroom, if you’re publishing two or three local stories a day, I say save your money on all your retention efforts because you’re still going to fail,” says Alan Fisco, President of The Seattle Times.

Alan Fisco, President of The Seattle Times at the World News Media Congress 2022 in Zaragoza, Spain. Image by Aránzazu Navarro for WAN-IFRA.

by Brian Veseling | January 25, 2023

Intensely focused on reader revenue for more than a decade, Fisco credits The Seattle Times’ success in large part to its high quality, local content. 

Winner of 11 Pulitzer Prizes, the Times has 176 journalists, which makes it the second largest news staff in the western United States after the Los Angeles Times.

Twenty-seven of those positions, or 15 percent of the total newsroom staffing, are funded through the Times’ philanthropic funding work, which helped them to add 11 newsroom positions in 2022, Fisco said.

The past couple of decades have not been without their challenges and hardships, however.

“We, like many of you, have been forced to cut expenses and cut staff over the years as advertising revenues have declined pretty precipitously. But when we’ve done that, we’ve tried to do everything we possibly can to protect newsroom positions,” Fisco told participants at WAN-IFRA’s World News Media Congress late last year.

The Seattle Times has been locally owned and independent for more than 125 years, he said, adding, “We take great pride in that local ownership and believe it is one of the cornerstones to our success.”

Fisco himself has been at the Times for more than 30 years and its president for the past five.
An early decision to focus on reader revenue
The Times made the strategic decision to move its business model away from a reliance on advertising to one that was audience focused more than 10 years ago, long before most of its peers.

“At t...

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