Wide variety of business models for local news explored at LION Summit

By Matt DeRienzo | Sep. 15, 2017

The country's largest gathering of local independent online news will include an examination of a wide variety of business models supporting local journalism across the country.

The 2017 LION Summit Oct. 26-28 at Columbia College in Chicago will feature speakers, panels and workshops on the revenue, journalism, technology, audience and community engagement issues facing local independent online news organizations, and a half-day "boot camp" for new publishers and idea-stage local news entrepreneurs.

Local online news site owners and publishers from more than 35 different states are already registered for the conference. They represent both nonprofit and for-profit local news sites, whose coverage areas range from a city neighborhood, a suburban community, a rural region, a major city, to an entire state, both general interest news sites and those covering niche topics.

Attendees will hear lessons from sites pursuing a variety of different business models.

Jim Brady will talk about Spirited Media's approach at Billy Penn in Philadelphia, The Incline in Pittsburgh and Denverite in Denver, which has targeted millennials, built a local events business, and de-emphasized traditional advertising.

Ted Williams will talk about how Charlotte Agenda in North Carolina got to more than $1 million in annual revenue within two years through native advertising, a huge Instagram following, and a specialty print product.

Darryl Holliday will talk about how City Bureau in Chicago has built its news operation around listening to residents.

Alice Dreger of East Lansing Info will explain how her nonprofit site in Michigan engages an army of citizen journalists in covering their local government and schools.

Jason Velazquez will talk about Greylock Glass, a local news podcasting company in northwestern Massachusetts, and outline what other local publishers can do to launch and monetize local podcasts.

Tasneem Raja will talk about The Tyler Loop, which is taking an "alt weekly approach" to a local online news site in a red and rural community in Texas.

Jay Senter of Shawnee Mission Post in Kansas will talk about his site's successful pivot from a free news/advertising model to a paywall.

Mary Walter-Brown, formerly of Voice of San Diego, and now leading the News Revenue Hub, will talk about how to launch paid membership programs to support local journalism.

Kelly Gilfillan of Home Page Media in Tennessee, Scott Brodbeck of ARLNow.com in Virginia, and Teresa Wippel of My Edmonds News in Washington will talk about expanding beyond your original base to launch sister local news sites in nearby communities.

The conference's "boot camp" on Thursday, Oct. 26, will include workshops on writing a business plan and choosing between for-profit and nonprofit status.

There will also be presentations and discussions on advertising sales, nonprofit fundraising, and enlisting local community foundation support for local journalism.

The 2017 LION conference is open to anyone interested in the online local news business. CLICK HERE to register.

Check out more entries in our 2017 conference blog »