How to become a LION member

Photos of LION members at the Independent News Sustainability Summit

LION Publishers helps our 500+ members across the U.S. and Canada build and run stronger independent news businesses

We know the unique challenges and opportunities that independent local newsrooms face because we work hand in hand with these publishers, providing $3.8 million in direct funding and nearly 500 hours of coaching, training and consulting in 2023 alone.

Learn more about LION and the programs we offer, and read about our other membership benefits below.

To become a LION member, you must complete a membership application and pay annual dues corresponding to your organization's revenue tier.

What are LION's membership tiers?

LION introduced a new membership tier in December 2022 to make membership more affordable for our smallest publishers. The “Micro” tier replaced the "Aspiring Entrepreneur" tier for publishers earning less than $50,000 in annual revenue, as well as for prospective news entrepreneurs that have not yet started earning revenue. 

The updated tiers and pricing are as follows:

  • Micro Tier for news publishers earning less than $50,000 in annual revenue | Membership dues: $140/year
  • Small Tier for news publishers earning between $50,000 and $500,000 in annual revenue | Membership dues: $210/year
  • Medium Tier for news publishers earning between $500,000 and $1,100,000 in annual revenue | Membership dues: $280/year
  • Large Tier for news publishers earning more than $1,100,000 in annual revenue | Membership dues: $550/year

Apply to become a LION member.

Am I eligible to become a LION member?

Independent digital news publishers are eligible to apply for LION membership if they meet our membership criteria. If you have questions about your eligibility, email [email protected].

What benefits are included in my membership?

💸 Direct funding, consulting and coaching

Our programs provide LION members with essential support to help them build more sustainable businesses. In 2023, that support included:

  • $3.8 million in direct funding: Our programs, including the Sustainability Audits and Funding program and Sustainability Lab, gave approximately one-third of LION members access to direct dollars to invest in building more sustainable businesses.
  • 496 hours of coaching and consulting: Direct dollars given to members were paired with personalized training, coaching, and consulting to offer support and guidance on how to spend the money.

🏆 Eligibility for the LION Sustainability Awards

The LION Publishers Sustainability Awards recognize excellence by local independent online news businesses in award categories focused on LION's pillars of sustainability — journalistic impact, financial health, and operational resilience.

The 2024 Awards feature:

  • Cash prizes for award winners (in 2023, we gave out more than $55,000 to LION Award winners)
  • The LION Awards Ceremony & Dinner, which will be hosted in person on September 5, 2024, during LION’s Independent News Sustainability Summit in Chicago.
  • Eight independently-judged award categories (if you’d like to volunteer as a judge, fill out this form!)
  • Two recognition awards nominated by LION staff and board members
  • The opportunity for independent publishers to be evaluated against peer news organizations with a similar annual revenue
  • A sliding scale for entry fees based on annual revenue
  • One complimentary ticket to the LION Awards Ceremony & Dinner for finalist organizations

🎓 Professional development through the News Entrepreneur Academy  

The News Entrepreneur Academy offers LION members training, resources and members-only content to strengthen their news businesses and become more sustainable. All News Entrepreneur Academy content is available to LION members free of charge. 

The News Entrepreneur Academy features full guided courses; shorter lessons on specific topics that can be viewed to answer specific questions; and a resource library that includes downloadable tools and templates, written articles, and much more.

📅 Discounts to all LION events

Register for the Independent News Sustainability Summit, which will take place in Chicago September 5–7, 2024. Our schedule will include:
  • Keynotes from industry leaders
  • Dozens of sessions on financial health, operational resilience, and journalistic impact –– LION’s pillars of sustainability
  • Facilitated networking opportunities
  • The sixth annual LION Awards Ceremony and Dinner

🤝 Peer support from the LION community

LION has always been, first and foremost, a community of independent publishers facing shared challenges together. And we'll continue and enhance this work by:

🏷️ Exclusive access to cost-saving products and services  

  • Lawyers for Reporters offers pro bono legal services to LION members on media law, insurance, corporate transactions, employment, real estate, tax, and non-profit governance issues. Get help with pre-publication review (if your organization has media liability insurance), copyright and trademark clearance, licensing, and news-gathering advice.
  • A custom media liability insurance program is available to LION members based in the U.S.
  • Discounted fiscal sponsorship through the Tiny News Collective, which provides tools, resources, and expertise to help communities build sustainable news organizations. The discounted fiscal sponsorship fee for LION members is 5% of all program grants and donations received. For more information, check out our FAQ!
  • Micro tier and nonprofit LION members get free access to Canva’s premium features (valued at approximately $6,000 per year).
  • Access to the SmartNews partner program 
  • Cybersecurity protection: Receive free increased web security and performance services through Cloudflare's Project Galileo.
  • The Local Media Consortium offers a complimentary membership to LION members with less than 200,000 monthly unique visitors.

Does LION offer dues forgiveness?

Yes, LION currently offers dues forgiveness for publishers earning less than $4,200 annually.

If your organization fits this criteria, please check the appropriate box on the LION membership application to request dues forgiveness.

If you have questions, please email [email protected].