Apply for our News Revenue Fellowship to hire a revenue-generating role for your independent news business

The independent news industry needs a better infrastructure to train and support staff in revenue-generating roles.

May 25, 2021 by Anika Anand

news revenue fellowship application

The independent news industry needs a better infrastructure to train and support staff in revenue-generating roles. That’s why today we are opening applications for our News Revenue Fellowship, which, thanks to support from the Meta Journalism Project, commits $1 million over two years to selected LION member organizations that are ready to design or bolster their revenue strategy.

>>Fill out this application form by June 18. <<

We are particularly interested in supporting independent newsrooms with small teams serving communities with few to no other alternative news and information sources, as well as those serving historically underrepresented or marginalized communities.

The News Revenue Fellowship program will be led by LION’s News Revenue Coach Penda Howell, who has more than 25 years of sales, marketing, and revenue-generating experience. Throughout the program, we’ll also bring in other industry experts.

With Penda and others’ expertise, we plan to create additional resources and training materials, accessible to all LION members, that highlight best practices in structuring and hiring for independent news businesses’ revenue roles.

Below we’ve compiled a list of frequently asked questions, including an outline of the application process. If you have additional questions, RSVP for one of our information sessions on June 3 or June 8.

Who is eligible to apply?

Any LION member is welcome to apply. (You are eligible if you are based in the U.S. or Canada). If you are not currently a LION member, you must apply by the end of day Friday, June 4, for us to evaluate your membership application. If accepted as a LION member, we will consider your News Revenue Fellowship application for review.

How do I apply?

Use this Airtable form to apply by June 18.

How many fellows will you be selecting?

We will aim to support at least 10 LION member organizations (ten fellows in a mix of full-time and part-time roles) in this program.

What kind of revenue does this program focus on?

We plan to support revenue generation from three sources: readers, significant donors, and advertisers.

Applicants will need to select one of those revenue streams to prioritize in their application. Their news revenue fellow will focus on growing that revenue stream.

Additionally, throughout the two-year program, fellows will learn about and explore opportunities related to all three revenue streams.

What are the program’s goals?

For newsrooms and fellows:
By the end of the two-year fellowship, we want news revenue fellows to be self-sustaining, which means earning their no-longer-subsidized salary and bringing in additional revenue for their news business.

By the end of 2023, LION will have made resources, templates, and trainings accessible to any LION member who wants to train or be trained in a news revenue role.

What time commitment and level of involvement are needed from the news business?

Based on our experience, it’s crucial for anyone in our training programs to have buy-in from top leadership. While we want to ensure that this program is focused on capacity building, we will require some amount of time for the leadership and/or leadership team to be part of strategic conversations that will help inform the news revenue fellow’s work. Our goal is to make sure that the news revenue fellow is ultimately empowered to run with what they learn from our program and earn your organization more dollars.

What exactly does the News Revenue Fellowship offer my news business?

The News Revenue Fellowship offers the following support and resources:

  • After our Sustainability Audit evaluation, we will help you identify the primary revenue opportunity that we can help you pursue in this program.
  • If selected, we will share best practices in designing a news revenue role job description and hiring process.
  • We will help evaluate your desired candidate for the news revenue role and ensure they are best suited to benefit from our fellowship program.
  • We will provide you with partial funding to pay for the news revenue fellow’s salary over two years.
  • We will onboard and train the news revenue fellow in our program and provide 1:1 coaching over the two-year fellowship.

Will you help me find the right candidate? Can I hire a candidate I already have in mind?

The most important thing is this person is a good fit for your news business and the News Revenue Fellowship program. If you are looking for more support in hiring, we will provide some general best practices and hiring templates while encouraging you to run your own hiring process. If you already have a candidate in mind, that’s great! We will ask all selected organizations to share their finalist(s) candidates with us so we can approve the hire before providing funding for their position and inviting them into the Fellowship program.

Is the training portion of this program in person or remote?

We will run the training portion of this program remotely. If there is an opportunity for an in-person gathering for the cohort over the two-year fellowship period, we’ll explore that with the group.

How much funding will I receive for the news revenue position?

We will provide a subsidy to all news businesses to go toward their fellows’ salaries. That means you will be expected to pitch in *some* dollars to make this hire.

We want to support as many LION members as possible in this pilot program and take into account factors like size and geography of the community served, size of newsroom team, etc. That’s why we’ll decide on the final amount we’re able to offer your news business once you’ve been selected to participate in the program.

We also ask in our application about any financial barriers you may face in providing some dollars toward the news revenue fellow’s salary.

What is the application process and timeline?

Applications are open today and will close by midnight on June 18. Use this Airtable form to apply. We will host two information sessions on June 3 and June 8 to answer any questions you have about the application and/or the program–– RSVP here.

If you are chosen as a finalist, you will receive an email from us by June 24. We will then invite you to go through our Sustainability Audit process. The Sustainability Audit is an evaluation tool we’ve recently developed to collect the key, relevant metrics about the current sustainability of independent news organizations. While we are continuing to refine and iterate on the Audit, we found it a handy tool to evaluate whether our support could help a news business through our programs.

Finalists will have two weeks, between June 24 through July 8, to complete the Audit form and select a time slot to speak with a LION Resident Expert. In that conversation, the Resident Expert will ask any follow-up questions about the data collected so far to complete the Sustainability Audit. We will share a copy of the Sustainability Audit with you and the judges for the News Revenue Fellowship. This information will not be shared with anyone else.

We will make final selections and notify selected applicants by July 28.

What’s the program timeline?

After we confirm all applicants, we’ll encourage newsrooms to immediately begin their hiring process to start the news revenue fellows between September 6 and September 17.

After fellows start, we’ll provide a training program and ongoing coaching to ensure all fellows are set up for success in beginning to generate revenue for their news business.

Should I apply for this program if I’ve already completed or am currently in another LION program?

We do not currently have any rule that explicitly disqualifies applicants because they’ve taken advantage of other LION programming. While our bias is always going to be toward helping as many LION members as possible across all our programs, we encourage you to apply if you have the bandwidth to do so.

How do I increase my chances of being selected?

We want you to submit the strongest application possible, so we are sharing our application assessment criteria with you below. We’ll be evaluating applications based on the following criteria, as it relates to the application questions in parentheses.

Assessment criteria

  1. The applicant could not make a revenue role hire without this funding (Application questions: 5, 6, 7, 8)
  2. The applicant has a clear idea of which revenue stream they want to focus on and their business is ready to benefit from dedicated revenue support (Application questions: 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 16, 17)
  3. The applicant has taken steps to incorporate diversity, equity and inclusion values in their journalism, and organizational operations and culture.
    (Application question: 15)
  4. The applicant and their team is open to experimenting and learning with us in this pilot program.
    (Application question: 18)
  5. The applicant and any other senior leadership will be a supportive and engaged partner for the Revenue Fellow.
    (Application question: 19, 20, 21)

Below we’ve written a bit more about each of the criteria:

  1. The applicant could not make a revenue role hire without this funding.
    We aim to prioritize LION members who are not in a financial position to afford this revenue hire. However, if you are an applicant who can afford to make the hire, but you think the hire and your news business would greatly benefit from the training and ongoing mentoring opportunity, please make that clear in your application.
  2. The applicant has a clear idea of which revenue stream they want to focus on and their business is ready to benefit from dedicated revenue support.
    We want to make sure that the News Revenue Fellow could hit the ground running as soon as they’re brought on board. That means they have a foundation to build on. We are more likely to select a news business that has shown some revenue traction (even if it is very little) compared to a news business that hasn’t tried or had any success earning revenue.
  3. The applicant values diversity, equity and inclusion in their organization and in the audiences they serve.
    We want every participant in this program to demonstrate that they’re making a concerted effort to apply best practices in diversity, equity and inclusion to their journalism and internal operations. We also want to have a cohort of publishers serving different types of audiences, including those serving historically underrepresented or marginalized communities.
  4. The applicant and their team are open to experimenting and learning with us in this pilot program.
    This is a brand-new program for LION, and no other program like it has existed before. We commit to trying lots of different things to ensure your News Revenue Fellow is doing everything they can to meet your revenue goals. This type of experimentation and learning requires patience, empathy and thoughtful and constructive feedback. We’re looking for LION members who can deliver that level of partnership in this program.
  5. The applicant and any other senior leadership will be a supportive and engaged partner for the Revenue Fellow.
    We know that we’ll receive many applications from one- to two-person teams that have been doing the exhausting work of editorial and revenue every single day with limited resources. We are excited to support you in this work, and we also want to set clear expectations up front that you’ll need to work in partnership with the News Revenue Fellow to ensure your news business can meet its revenue goals. While you may not be heavily involved in the day-to-day revenue work any more, you will need to collaborate with the News Revenue Fellow around strategic decision-making and empower them to execute on potential opportunities without having to clear every detail with you or other senior leadership.

Have more questions?

RSVP for one of our information sessions on June 3 or June 8.

LION Publishers is an association supporting independent news entrepreneurs. Sign up for our weekly email for news entrepreneurs, our News Entrepreneurs Slack community, and become a LION member.

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