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LION is accepting applications for investigative reporting grants

Last week’s news that The Denver Post would cut one-third of its already shrunken newsroom was a stark reminder of the plight of legacy newspapers and local accountability journalism.

Local independent online news organizations are emerging all over the country to fill the gaps, but two big questions loom: Can they implement a sustainable business model? And can small local news operations do the same kind of investigative and accountability journalism — work critical to democracy — that newspapers are abandoning?

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Reader Revenue Summit planned for April 6 in New Jersey

As news organizations across the U.S. continue to experiment with altered business models and new streams of revenue, it’s become clear that building reader revenue needs to be part of nearly everyone’s strategy.

To help news publishers think through different ways they could approach building a business with their audience, the Center for Cooperative Media and LION Publishers are teaming up to host a workshop on reader revenue, set for Friday, April 6, at Montclair State University.

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LION launches RAMP local advertising mentorships

LION Publishers is accepting applications from members* for a new mentorship program that will help local independent online news publishers establish local advertising as a sustainable revenue source.

Over the course of the year, thanks to support from the Democracy Fund, Local Independent Online News Publishers will provide mentorship and financial support to 10 members in building a market-specific local advertising program.

As part of the pilot Revenue from Advertising Mentorship Program, participants will receive funding to partially support their planning and implementation of new revenue streams.

Depending on the need and opportunity in each community, this could include help in growing revenue from display advertising, sponsored content and newsletter advertising. Publishers relying on other revenue sources who have no current local advertising support are also eligible to apply, and the program would help them build one from scratch. LION is committed to having the participants in RAMP be diverse in race, gender, publication size, geographic location, and for-profit vs. nonprofit tax status.

Apply by February 2!

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Out of work after DNAinfo shutdown? Start your own news site

The billionaire owner of DNAinfo, Gothamist, Chicagoist, LAist and other local news properties pulled the plug on his websites Thursday. Joe Ricketts even removed the archives of his reporters' work, with the move coming a week after the New York newsroom voted to join a union.

The websites were shut down with no warning at the close of the business day on the East Coast, even as stories were being published. Each of them was entirely replaced with a brief announcement from the owner.

The DNAinfo journalists who suddenly found themselves without jobs should take a few days to enjoy some much-deserved time with their families, and then get in touch with one of the 180-plus members of Local Independent Online News Publishers. If you've got the drive to be an entrepreneur, we've got a network of independent publishers who are ready and willing to help you establish a news outlet that is focused on your community.

Start your own indie news site, and join us!

Like the withering of AOL's Patch before it, Ricketts' various sites ran out of gas not because local news isn't a solid business, but because they're not truly local.

There were great journalists working for those sites, doing fine reporting (including some excellent accountability journalism). But there's a vast difference between a billionaire owner who eventually gets bored and an authentically local publisher who's invested in his or her business in a fundamental way.

Ricketts said that his sites weren't making enough money: "...while we made important progress toward building DNAinfo into a successful business, in the end, that progress hasn't been sufficient to support the tremendous effort and expense needed...."

The local news industry is strong, healthy and growing — the real local segment of the industry. LION members and our many colleagues running local news websites are demonstrating that every day. In fact, more than 200 indie pubishers and experts were just at our annual conference in Chicago over the weekend — the largest ever local indie news gathering.

"I'm hopeful that in time, someone will crack the code on a business that can support exceptional neighborhood storytelling for I believe telling those stories remains essential," Ricketts said. 

It's not a simple task, but the members of LION have shown that dedicated effort can make it work.

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