LION’s MANE: Knight invests in new local news tech infrastructure project

LION's MANE will help small to mid-sized news businesses obtain affordable technology from leading service providers.

September 7, 2023 by LION Publishers

1/8/24 update: The infrastructure initiative, previously announced as an effort overseen by LION Publishers, moved to the Lenfest Institute in late 2023.

LION’s original announcement of MANE, which it is no longer overseeing, follows:

LION Publishers, the nation’s leading nonprofit helping independent local news publishers become more sustainable, is announcing an initiative to help news businesses obtain affordable technology from leading technology service providers.

LION’s Maintaining an Affordable News Ecosystem (MANE) aims to stimulate and stabilize the marketplace of technology services, including content management systems and customer relationship management tools, for small and mid-sized publishers.

The initiative is starting with a $7.25 million investment from the Knight Foundation. The first two participating technology service providers will be Automattic’s Newspack, a digital publishing, monetization and analytics platform designed for news organizations, and BlueLena, an audience development agency. LION will be administering funds to these companies based on their completed deliverables.

Newspack will train existing and new users to better utilize its content management system’s monetization features, as well as onboard hundreds more small and mid-sized publishers to the platform. BlueLena will scale its services with the goal of doubling the number of existing clients and achieving a positive return on investment for licensing its platform and audience tools.

“It’s exciting to see philanthropy investing in tools made for the needs of small and mid-sized publishers like our members, who are often dealing with expensive and unwieldy tools unsuited for their very local missions,” said Chris Krewson, LION’s executive director. “Our members need confidence that the technology solutions they choose will be affordable, and will have the runway to continue to offer vital tools as the field continues its exponential growth.”

“We want to increase availability of common technology solutions for publishers,” said Marc Lavallee, program director at Knight Foundation. “Newspack and BlueLena already serve hundreds of publishers and this will enable them to reach hundreds more.”

If you run a technology service for small to mid-sized publishers and have identified a funder to support your growth, reach out to us at [email protected] to learn more about this initiative. 

About Newspack and Blue Lena

Newspack is a division of Automattic Inc. and was founded in March 2019 with the goal of providing an affordable publishing, monetization and analytics platform for small and mid-sized independent local news publishers. It has signed and launched over 250 sites in four years including such notables as VTDigger, Block Club Chicago, The City, Capital B, the Center for Public Integrity and many more.

Automattic is a US-based software and services company and the commercial arm of WordPress, the open-source publishing software that powers more than 40 percent of the web. Automattic was co-founded in 2005 by Matt Mullenweg, its current CEO and one of the creators of WordPress. Automattic is a privately held, fully distributed company with nearly 2,000 employees in 95 countries.

BlueLena was founded in 2020 to create a sustainable future for independent local media. We develop strategies to build audiences and deliver tools to support journalism funding models for long-term success. Today, over two-hundred community news organizations leverage our audience platform, strategy consulting and managed services to accelerate their digital transformation and growth. Our client community represents a diverse collection of for profit and nonprofit newsrooms, digital and print publications, as well as established and emerging media brands across North America. 

BlueLena is founder-funded and backed by investment from Automattic (owner of Newspack), Local Media Association and Old Town Media, a New York-based firms that has supported the American Journalism Project, The Colorado Sun, Block Club Chicago and Chalkbeat among other successful media-related projects. Visit us at

About LION

LION Publishers is a national nonprofit for local journalism entrepreneurs. We strengthen the local news industry by helping independent news publishers build more sustainable businesses. We focus primarily on the business side of news entrepreneurship, as many other support organizations exist to help publishers level up their journalism skills.

About Knight Foundation

We are social investors who support a more effective democracy by funding free expression and journalism, arts and culture in community, research in areas of media and democracy, and in the success of American cities and towns where the Knight brothers once published newspapers.

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