2022 was a growth period for the burgeoning independent news industry.
Nothing better exemplified the continued development of this crucial piece of the local news ecosystem than the Independent News Sustainability Summit, which we co-hosted in Austin, Texas, in October alongside our partners at News Revenue Hub and RevLab at The Texas Tribune.
Consider this: At LION’s last pre-pandemic Summit that we hosted in Nashville, we drew around 200 independent publishers and their supporters. Last year, in collaboration with our partners, we sold 500 tickets — and drew rave reviews from attendees, funders, partners and sponsors.
They came to hear Evan Smith, the outgoing CEO of the Tribune, interview former New York Times editor Dean Baquet about why he’s bullish on the future of local news. (Spoiler: LION members like New York Focus are one of his reasons.)
They packed rooms with talks about reimagining newsrooms with sustainable cultures; measuring trust and tracking impact; reaching new audiences; shoring up operations; generating new revenue; combating burnout; and many more topics focused on building sustainable news organizations.
Other signs of this maturation came from the LION Local Journalism Awards Ceremony, with stories of impact and business success from winners on-stage; those tales drew an on-the-spot award pledge from the Knight Foundation, as well as notice from Nieman Journalism Lab.
Meanwhile, LION continued our recent growth as an organization and scaled the support we provide to our members. Notably, we completed more than 100 of our signature Sustainability Audits in 2022, giving members personalized advice from industry experts and up to $6,000 of direct funding to help them invest in strengthening their businesses. Between that work, our 2022 GNI Startups Lab and the Meta Revenue Growth Fellowship program, LION gave out a record $1.8 million to our members in 2022.
Our organization’s supporters, and the overall news industry, have definitely noticed this growth – perhaps best underscored by the renewal of our grant from the Knight Foundation, nearly tripling their support with a $2.85 million commitment over the next three years.
What’s next for LION Publishers? We know more now than we ever have about the stages our members’ businesses go through on the path to sustainability; we know where founders get stuck; we know, increasingly, what it takes to move forward. We’re looking forward to continuing to share what we have learned with program participants, members, supporters, founders and the industry we serve.
Thanks for a great 2022. Here’s to more growth and learnings in the year to come.
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The national event aims to gather 500 independent news publishers and their supporters for three days of learning and connection.