Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Newseum admission sales fell 6% in '10, report says

Regarding Freedom Forum's refusal to answer questions about its spending, Anonymous@2:32 p.m. writes about the foundation's Newseum, a Washington museum about news history.

"They are practically giving tickets away through Groupon and have a local radio station pay for student tours," 2:32 says. "They will never give you attendance figures, Jim, and if they did, you'd have to ask how many were full price. These men were not great at newspapering and obviously don't know how to run a museum or foundation."

In fact, the Newseum does offer a glimpse at ticket sales in its annual IRS tax return, which discloses the dollar value of admissions. Sales fell 6% in 2010, to $6.5 million, from 2009, according to that year's return.

I obtained a copy of the return under federal open-records laws.

Freedom Forum, based in Washington, was the original Gannett Foundation until retired Chairman and CEO Al Neuharth relaunched it in 1991 with a new name and mission.

Gifts, food more important
The number of Newseum tickets sold may actually have been higher than in 2009, depending on how many were sold at special discounts, or offered at no charge. One Yelp user here, for example, used a $10 Groupon coupon.

Full-priced adult tickets are $21.95 each, plus tax. Seniors and kids get in for less.

Admissions are a small source of revenue at most cultural institutions. Museums depend much more on donations, income from endowments, and gift shop and restaurant sales.

The Newseum took in $20.4 million in admissions and other "program service revenue," up 9% from 2009. In both years, however, the biggest chunk was from catering and food sales: $13 million vs. $11 million in 2009.

The museum's overall revenue was $73.4 million in 2010, down 13% from $84.2 million in 2009, the tax return says. That was almost entirely because Freedom Forum -- its single-biggest revenue source -- cut its annual grant to $39 million from $52.4 million in 2009, tax returns show.

Related: See the Newseum's 2010 tax return here, and the 2009 one here. This spreadsheet shows select museum financials for 2007-2010. Plus: Yelp users give Newseum an average 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Earlier: Freedom Forum cut 2010 spending -- but not exec pay.

[Photo: flickr user BWKP]


  1. Once again, who cares? What's next Disneyworld admissions are down too?

  2. Gannett Blog's more than 10,000 monthly readers include thousands of retired company employees.

    Their interests stretch back across the company's past, including to the original Gannett Foundation, which is today's Freedom Forum.

    For readers who are newer to Gannett, of course, I offer nearly 6,000 posts devoted to other topics.

  3. I agree, Jim. Who cares? *I* care. I spent most of my life working for what became a really awful company, and as someone (among many) just tossed onto the street after more than a quarter century of good work, I'm totally online with schadenfreude: I appreciate watching its death spiral.

    More to my point, I really loathe rhetorical questions, such as "who cares."

    They're impossibly arrogant, judgmental and mean-spirited -- a clear flag that the poster is not interested in dialogue any different than his or her own.

    Sad that, too, if it comes from a media person.

  4. I care too, and am disgusted with what I read about Gannett, Freedom Forum and Newseum. Thanks for covering all Jim - no one else does and it is needed.

  5. Nice speech 6:56 but this is the Gannett Blog not the Freedom Forum blog. That's the point but way to call your peers names

  6. Why pay anything to get into this opulent relic when the world class (and free) Smithsonian is within spitting distance?

  7. It's pretty simple: If you don't care about Freedom Forum info, then don't read it. It is interesting to many of us who are retired Big G veterans with the battle scars to prove it.

  8. It is way too funny that the Gannett-Freedom Forum-Newseum is pushing tickets through Groupon instead of Deal Chicken.

  9. Newseum people at high levels who make such decisions learned to be so ruthless while at Big G. Why go with a chicken failure when their mandate is to move tickets and make the tomb look full of visitors. Jim is right that ticket sales are more for appearance than a revenue stream. That comes from failing endowment and squeezing the likes of ABC News to use studio for their Sunday show.

  10. 11:27 - that's because the writing is already on the wall for Deal Chicken. Consider it the new Momslikeme.

  11. On year does not make a trend. Having said that, here's that trend line:

    The Newseum opened in spring 2008, so there isn't a full year of data for comparison.

    So, 2009 was the first full year of business. That year, the economy started to grow again -- albeit slowly -- after the Great Recession.

    Then, the dollar value of sales fell in 2010. At least through word of mouth recommendations, why wouldn't sales have climbed instead?

  12. 11:27 once again you are uninformed. Since the Neuseum has nothing to do with Gannett it's not strange at all. The only people associating the FF with Gannett is you and Jim.

  13. 1:58 It is absolutely true that Freedom Forum and the Gannett Co. Inc. have no formal present-day affiliation.

    But as I've posted before, there's a long legal trail showing the connection between the Newseum, Freedom Forum, and the original Gannett Foundation.

    The New York Attorney General's Office outlined how the Gannett Foundation became Freedom Forum; this history appears in the AG's 1994 settlement of its investigation of Gannett Foundation/Freedom Forum spending under Al Neuharth.

    The settlement documents say on Page 4 that the Gannett Foundation was merged into Freedom Forum. Note, also, that the settlement says the Gannett Foundation "is a non-for-profit corporation now known as Freedom Forum International Inc."

    Further, it says that in 1991, the Gannett Foundation formed a Virginia corporation "with the intent of merging the New York corporation into the Virginia corporation."

    That merger had been held up during the AG's investigation; the settlement cleared the decks for the merger to be completed.

    Freedom Forum itself describes the connection on its website: "The Freedom Forum was established in 1991 under the direction of Founder Al Neuharth as successor to a foundation started in 1935 by newspaper publisher Frank E. Gannett."

  14. 8:13 makes a good point. Many of us are older-timers, but have not forgotten how the people affiliated with Newseum/FF ruined many a career. Not for ethical or performance reasons, but because you did not brown nose enough. There were never any good old days with Big G and its poisonous culture.

  15. I'm happy to send Jim $20 rather than go to the Newseum.

  16. 1:58: To you, Capone was just an income tax evader, not a bootlegger. See the forest, not individual trees. The Freedom Forum is a club and perk for Gannett execs (and their kin) who left on good terms and were rewarded for their service. You sound like you're already there, or are counting on coasting out your final years there.


Jim says: "Proceed with caution; this is a free-for-all comment zone. I try to correct or clarify incorrect information. But I can't catch everything. Please keep your posts focused on Gannett and media-related subjects. Note that I occasionally review comments in advance, to reject inappropriate ones. And I ignore hostile posters, and recommend you do, too."

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.