LION members know Matt DeRienzo from his work as our executive director. But March 6 marks a milestone for Matt: his first day as LION's *full time* ED. Thanks to a grant from the Knight Foundation, Matt is focused full time on serving members and growing LION as an organization. We talked with Matt about his work with LION, his print media background, the future of LION, and what LION members are doing to sustain and distinguish themselves and grow in an increasingly Facebook-and-Google dominated online advertising landscape.
LION member Joe Hyde, publisher of San Angelo LIVE! in Texas, talked with us about a variety of topics, from earning extra revenue from programmatic advertising to keeping your readers on your site longer. He also explained how he went from flying bombers for the Air Force to starting a small ISP to launching a LION site.
Kenny Katzgrau needs no introduction for many LION members, as his company, Broadstreet Ads, is the advertising technology provider many of us rely on to keep the business side of our shops humming. We talked with Kenny about the current state of online advertising, competition with Facebook for ad dollars, and where he sees the online ad business going over the next couple of years.
Host Scott Brodbeck (ARLnow.com, RestonNow.com) interviews "OG" LION publisher Howard Owens of The Batavian and the Wyoming County Free Press. We talk about Howard's path to launching the Batavian, growing readership and advertising, and what the future might hold for LION publishers in the age of Facebook.
A Q&A with LION member John Sinkevics, publisher of Local Spins in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
A Q&A with LION member Bob Conrad, publisher of This is Reno in Nevada.
Kelly Gilfillan is one of the premier sales pros in LION Publishers. She started Home Page Media Group with a partner, journalist Susan Leathers, and grew it from one site in a suburb of Nashville, Tenn., to numerous local sites in the region. We asked Kelly about sales strategy, finding sales talent, launching (and monetizing) special sections, the difficulty of expanding, financial bumps in the road and about email marketing and client service.
A Q&A with LION member Marc Levy, publisher of Cambridge Day in Cambridge, Mass.
Dylan Smith, publisher of the Tucson Sentinel and chairman of the LION Publishers board of directors, delivered an "Ignite" talk in December about the nationwide emergence of local independent online news publishers at the Newsgeist conference in Phoenix, sponsored by Google and the Knight Foundation.
Local Independent Online News Publishers, a national organization dedicated to supporting local journalism entrepreneurs, has named Matt DeRienzo as its first full-time executive director.
The hire, made possible by a grant from the Knight Foundation, will enable LION Publishers to expand training and mentorship of local publishers and idea-stage local news businesses across the country.
"Hiring Matt is a banner headline for LION," said Dylan Smith, the chairman of LION's Board of Directors and the editor and publisher of TucsonSentinel.com. "As a mostly volunteer-based organization, we've been able to accomplish a great deal on behalf of local independent news publishers since our 2012 founding. With Matt DeRienzo now pushing us ahead on a full-time basis, we'll have the capacity to support even more publishers who are creating the change needed to rebuild local news."
DeRienzo, a veteran reporter, editor, publisher and media executive, has assisted LION in a part-time role over the past two years.
"I'm passionate about LION's mission and thrilled to be able to work full-time helping entrepreneurs launch sites that fill gaps in local journalism, and assist existing publishers reach sustainability and grow their operations," DeRienzo said.
DeRienzo said he will prioritize building on the organization's work to share best practices among independent publishers, as well as building connections with potential startup news outlets in under-served communities around the country.
"We're excited about how this will improve LION's ability, first and foremost, to connect local news entrepreneurs with indie publishers who've found a formula that works, with timely advice, and with ideas that they can immediately put to use," DeRienzo said. "We anticipate that having the capacity to share even more of this road map for the local online news business will encourage more people to step up and address their own communities' journalism needs."
"Matt is always actively listening and helping to lead the critical national conversation about the future of independent journalism. He consistently offers innovative ways for us to move forward as an organization," said Traven Rice, publisher of The Lo-Down (New York City) and a member of LION's Board. "In the past two years, I have come to admire his dedication to engagement within our growing community of local publishers. He clearly respects the diversity and unique viewpoints our members bring to the online publishing world. I’m eager to see LION continue to flourish under his leadership."
Noting that DeRienzo has "done an outstanding job as interim director," Charlotte-Anne Lucas, LION's Board Secretary, said, "I'm delighted that Matt will be our Executive Director."
"He shares LION's passion and vision for the future of local journalism, which is the foundation of democracy. With Matt's help, this organization will grow and thrive," said Lucas, a founding member of LION and the managing director of NowCastSA in San Antonio.
LION Publishers joined with the Society of Professional Journalists and about 60 other journalism organizations in asking President-elect Donald Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence to set up a meeting to discuss transparency and access to government.
The coalition sent a letter Wednesday to Trump and Pence, asking for a meeting or conference call to discuss:
• the ability of reporters to directly interact with government employees who are subject matter experts, rather than interacting with Public Information Officers (or having all conversations monitored by Public Information Officers);
• access to the activities of the President;
• and ensuring that the Federal Freedom of Information Act remains as strong as possible.
“We believe strongly that journalists are the eyes and ears of the citizens of the United States,” said SPJ National President Lynn Walsh. “The average American citizen does not have the time or resources to check up on elected officials to make sure they are running the country the way they should. It is up to journalists to help hold those in power accountable.”
Local news reporters aren't often called upon to interview the president, but they do deal with federal officials frequently, said Dylan Smith, chairman of Local Independent Online News Publishers.
"Federal regulators are daily making decisions that have a direct effect on local communities," Smith said. "Whether it's the environment, or business, law enforcement or transportation funding, their power extends far from Washington, D.C. Sadly, too often they are not responsive to questions from journalists — and regular citizens — seeking to understand and explain what their actions will mean to local residents."
The Knight Foundation announced on Thursday morning a two-year, $200,000 grant to support Local Independent Online News Publishers expand its support of entrepreneurs and nonprofit leaders who are launching and running local independent online news sites.
Two members of LION Publishers Board of Directors, AustinTalks.org publisher Suzanne McBride and BIGR Media COO Kelly Gilfillan, have been re-elected and will continue leading the nation's foremost group of local independent news publishers.
The pair were unanimously voted by the Board to three-year terms, filling out the leadership of Local Independent Online News Publishers. Their renewed terms were ratified by the membership at the annual meeting held at the 2016 LION Summit in Chicago.
The two have brought to LION's leadership a diverse set of experiences that reflects the breadth of the national organization's membership. LION Publisher's nearly 140 members include the publishers of both for- and nonprofit news sites across the United States, ranging from rural towns and urban neighborhoods to regional news sites.
"Following the LION conference, I came home inspired and full of hope for the state of local news," Gilfillan said. "Serving on the board, I look forward to helping our members grow their businesses and keeping local news a viable means of making a living for all LIONs."
"Readers from big cities to small towns are demanding information about their communities, and the 140-some members of LION are filling a critical need," McBride said. "My goal is to do all I can to nurture and support still more local news operators, especially in news deserts - those areas with little or no coverage."
LION Publishers joined Monday with 40 national journalism groups in calling on President Obama – yet again – to stop practices in federal agencies that prevent important information from getting to the public.
"Obama may be leaving the White House, but we aren’t going anywhere. Our promise to the American people is to keep fighting for their right to know what their elected officials are up to," we said in a letter to the administration.
The organizations, including the Society of Professional Journalists, American Society of News Editors, Investigative Reporters & Editors and LION, sent a letter to Josh Earnest, the president's chief spokesman, urging changes to policies that constrict the flow of information to the public, including prohibiting journalists from communicating with staff without going through public information offices, requiring government PIOs to review interview questions and monitoring interviews between journalists and sources.
We're very pleased to announce the latest LION Publishers initiative: an in-depth research study of the business and editorial practices of our members.
The basis for the project is a comprehensive online survey of members of LION Publishers. The aggregate data collected will be shared with LION's membership to assist in a better understanding of our common challenges and help identify new opportunities. Selected anonymous data will be shared with the rest of the news industry and the public.
The survey includes questions on revenue, staffing, editorial priorities and more. It's intended to provide a baseline so we can measure progress and change in our segment of the industry.
The survey is only open to members of LION Publishers »
Preliminary results will be presented at the 2016 LION Summit, with some details being fleshed out in follow-up interviews with selected publishers.