💵 3 things that accelerate and hinder revenue growth


If there’s one thing our members have consistently told us, it’s that they want more direct funding to help make their news businesses more sustainable. An influx of cash, the thinking goes, is just the catalyst a publication needs to build its team, increase its impact and grow its bottom line.

To test this compelling theory, we launched the Revenue Growth Fellowship in 2021 to provide 12 LION members with two years of direct funding to hire someone in a revenue-generating role. This person was responsible for generating recurring revenue for the news business, which would kickstart continued growth. 

Here’s what we discovered: Direct funding is not the silver bullet we imagined it to be.

And here’s why: Without taking the time to create a strong operational infrastructure, thoughtful employee recruitment and management and a focused revenue strategy, no amount of direct dollars will make a news business financially healthy.

So what does? Here are three things we learned about what accelerates and hinders revenue growth in any news business, along with additional insights that were so telling, they now underpin our five-year strategic plan

– Lisa Heyamoto, LION’s associate director of membership education

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6 resources for independent publishers

1. Advance justice through journalism. Register for Nonprofit Quarterly’s webinar, “Remaking the Economy: Redefining Journalism,” which will highlight ways journalism can center community engagement and advance racial and economic justice. (TODAY at 2 p.m. ET)

2. California publishers: Get a fellow funded: Apply for UC Berkeley’s California Local News Fellowship program, which funds a full-time, early-career journalist for two years starting September 2024. (Apply by Dec. 13)

3. Create a custom GPT. Register for the Center for Cooperative Media’s workshop, “Beginner’s guide: Custom GPTs for local news publishers,” and access its latest ebook on creating a custom GPT for your news organization. (Dec. 13)

4. Help researchers understand industry culture. Take 15 minutes to complete RJI Fellow and LION coach Jennifer Mizgata’s survey that will inform strategies on improving journalism workplace culture. (Dec. 22)

5. Stick to the facts. Here are three tips from the Trans Journalist Association on navigating uncertain gender identity during breaking news.

6. Craft sponsor-centric messaging. Check out these insights from Indiegraf on developing messaging and a value proposition to attract sponsorship revenue.


What we’re reading

Digital-only omission. Why digital news outlets were excluded from a Washington state tax exemption designed to boost local media. (GeekWire)

Seeing is believing. How community listening led to hiring an editorial cartoonist at inewsource. (Nieman Lab)

Power up. How to harness your curiosity to maximize your productivity. (Harvard Business Review)

Independent, together. How to find support when building an independent local news business, featuring LION’s Chris Krewson. (Your First Byline)

Push and pull. Why subscription models can cause reader and revenue misalignment. (The Rebooting).


LIONs in the news

When training and onboarding new employees, getting folks on the same page can be a considerable challenge for any news organization, especially if your contributors aren’t formally trained journalists.

That’s why NRI Nation’s Nikita Roy worked with LION coach Jennifer Mizgata to streamline the onboarding process and create new materials to get staff up to speed on NRI’s mission, values, and work culture.

The result? By saving hours of training time, NRI Nation was able to apply for and win its first grant from the International Center for Journalists. When you’re building something from scratch, every second matters.

Read the case study.

Evolving a Project Into Full-Fledged Media Business
How NRI Nation created the infrastructure to allow for future growth.
Evolving a Project Into Full-Fledged Media Business
How NRI Nation created the infrastructure to allow for future growth.

In other LION member news:

  • Documented Co-Founder Mazin Sidahmed has been selected for the Emerson Collective Dial Fellowship, a program that provides remarkable leaders with new tools to build their movements. 
  • In this Local Media Association article, Richland Source CEO Jay Allred explains how his team experiments with AI.
  • The Flatlander’s documentary on centenarians “Looking Forward at 100” won the Audience Choice Award at the Saskatchewan Independent Film Awards.
  • After being barred from a press conference, The Berkeley Scanner Editor-in-Chief Emilie Raguso and fellow First Amendment advocates applied pressure, resulting in restored press access.
  • This Works in Progress article highlights The JOLT as a free, daily, online news source for Olympia-based residents. 
  • Epicenter-NYC’s Ambar Castillo and Carolina Public Press’s Mehr Sher have been selected for the National Press Foundation’s 2024 Widening the Pipeline Fellowship, which supports leading journalists of color.
  • The Xylom is a finalist for the third annual Anthem Awards, which celebrate mission-driven work from around the world.

How to reach us

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