2017 LION Summit will feature boot camp for new local online news publishers

Speakers will tackle revenue, tech, audience and journalism challenges for the local online news business

By Matt DeRienzo | Aug. 1, 2017

Some of the people who will be speaking at LION's annual conference Oct. 26-28 in Chicago.

Dozens of speakers are already confirmed for LION's annual conference Oct. 26-28 in Chicago, tackling revenue, technology, audience development, legal concerns and journalism challenges for local independent online news publishers.

In addition to an expanded program on the Friday and Saturday of the conference, a new addition this year will be a "boot camp" for new publishers and idea-stage local news entrepreneurs on Thursday, Oct. 26.

Led by industry experts and veteran local online news publishers with hands-on experience, it will include sessions on how to craft a business plan, choosing between nonprofit and for-profit status, advertising basics, other revenue streams, the "tech stack" needed to run a local news organization, and "staying out of trouble" by knowing what kind of insurance you need, when to hire a lawyer, and how to keep up with bookkeeping.

Register today and qualify for early-bird rates!

Highlights of the main conference will include:

Small News Orgs and Giant Tech Companies. An update on LION's partnership with Facebook, with Stefanie Murray of the Center for Cooperative Media, Glenn Burkins of Q City Metro, Kelly Gilfillan of Home Page Media and Maria Archangelo of Philadelphia Public School Notebook.

Local News in a Big City. The Daily Beast wrote recently about the near-total collapse of daily newspaper coverage of local news in New York City. Indie sites have done a phenomenal job covering big city neighborhoods, but monetization and sustainability have been elusive. We convene indie journalists and publishers from Chicago, LA and New York to discuss, including Chicago freelance journalist Evan Moore, Led Black of The Uptown Collective and Jesus Sanchez of The Eastsider LA.

Membership Programs. Mary Walter-Brown of the News Revenue Hub talks about its effort to develop membership programs as a major revenue stream at local news sites across the country, and shares examples of what has worked and what hasn’t.

Paywalls. Publisher Jay Senter talks about how the Shawnee Mission Post successfully implemented a paywall to help support local journalism in small-town Kansas, signing up more than 1,000 subscribers in three and a half months.

Building better ad products. How we hit $1 million in revenue within 2 years of launch. Display advertising sucks and membership revenue is small. Publisher Ted Williams will talk about how the Charlotte Agenda uses it's job board, annual print guide, Instagram and sponsorship model to generate $1.2 million in revenue with only a six person full-time staff.

The journalist as salesperson: Can longtime journalists make the transition to being effective advertising salespeople as indie sites seek to raise money for the support of local journalism? Ebony Reed of Reynolds Journalism Institute says they're in a great position to do so.

Journalism’s Class Problem. Why an essay about the reaction John S. Knight Fellow Heather Bryant has received at journalism conferences when she says her husband is a sanitation worker has resonated with so many. How to begin to bridge the socio-economic disconnect in local journalism.

How Local News Can Restore Trust in Journalism. The crucial role that neighborhood-level local news coverage will play in restoring the credibility of journalism at a critical time for our country, and how it’s key to audience development, with Tracie Powell of All Digitocracy and the Democracy Fund.

Growth and Scale. Jim Brady will talk about how Spirited Media is attempting to build authentically local news sites in three completely unrelated cities - Billy Penn in Philadelphia, Denverite in Denver and The Incline in Pittsburgh. A panel discussion will follow with Jay Allred, Kelly Gilfillan, Teresa Wippel of MyEdmondsNews and Scott Brodbeck of ARLNow on efforts to leverage business side efficiency over multiple sites.

Defamation 101: How to Reduce Your Chances of Getting Sued. Attorney Jeffrey Kosseff will provide a primer on defamation law, and the common mistakes that are likely to lead to lawsuits, including practical tips to reduce the likelihood that you will face a successful defamation suit.

Ramping Up Ad Sales. Workshops led by veteran advertising sales leader Eleanor Cippel.

Pushing Mobile. Christopher Guess provides a demo of "Push," the open-source mobile news app he's building for small news organizations.

Solutions Journalism. Liza Gross of Solutions Journalism Network and the staff of local indie online news site RIchland Source from Ohio talk about the concept and practice of solutions journalism in local news coverage.

The State of Small Daily Newspapers. The plight and future of small-market daily local newspapers, from newly published, and unpublished research, produced for the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University and the Agora Journalism Center in Portland, including a survey of 400 journalists primarily working at local newspapers, with Damian Radcliffe of the University of Oregon.

Digital Trends in Local News. Distilling highlights from the latest research, and what it all means for community digital publishers, with former Pew Research analyst Jesse Holcomb.

The Tyler Loop. Journalists with national news backgrounds take an alt-weekly, data-savvy approach to local independent online news in an increasingly diverse Texas community, with Tasneem Raja.

City Bureau: A look at the unique approach that City Bureau is taking to community engagement and local news in Chicago, with Darryl Holliday.

ProPublica Illinois. A look at the national online news powerhouse's first local news bureau.

Citizen Journalists. Alice Dreger talks about East Lansing Info, a nonprofit Michigan site described as a "reader-sustained, citizen-reported, nonpartisan, non-editorializing ‘militia’ news organization, now in its fourth fiscal year.

Collaboration. Insight from a year’s worth of research on how local news sites can benefit from partnerships with national organizations, and nonprofits and commercial can work together, with Heather Bryant and Stefanie Murray.

Google News Lab Tools Overviews. Learn how to use Advanced Search, Google Scholar, Google Image Search and Google Trends in part one of this program, and in part two, learn how to use Google's geospatial tools, such as Google Maps, Fusion Tables, Google Earth, Street View, and more, as well as information on AMP and other tools. Andy Boyle, author and platform developer for Axios, will lead these workshops.

Fighting for Data and Making It Work. An overview of how to fight for public records and data, as well as a wide variety of stories you can tell with it, for digital, print and broadcast, with Andy Boyle.

Covering a Public Health Crisis. Lessons from Flint, Michigan, on holding local and state governments accountable on public health issues, with Jiquanda Johnson, publisher of Flint Beat.

Covering Health Care Reform. Advice on localizing the debate over efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, with Rose Hoban of North Carolina Health News.

Covering the Opioid Epidemic. Covering the opioid epidemic’s impact on local communities, with Rose Hoban, Denise Lockwood of Racine County Eye and Tom Sofield of Levittown Now.

Engaging Millennials. What happened when the Richland Source in Ohio turned its newsroom into a live local music venue, with Publisher Jay Allred and reporters Emily Dech and Brittany Shock

There will also be sessions on how to approach local community foundations about funding journalism; race, inclusiveness and bias in local news coverage; email newsletters as a revenue source; getting started with Instagram and Snapchat; local news website design critiques; reinventing story comments; and covering immigration in the age of Trump. Stay tuned for announcements about more conference speakers and sponsors.

This year's LION Summit is possible due to the generous support of the Knight Foundation, the Ford Foundation, Ezoic, Walsh Creative, Broadstreet Ads, and Columbia College. To sponsor the conference or become an exhibitor, contact LION Executive Director Matt DeRienzo at mattderienzo@lionpublishers.com.

Check out more entries in our 2017 conference blog »