📈 Revenue is trending up for independent publishers
Here’s some good news for your National Small Business Week: The median revenue for LION members is ticking up.
Member publications that have been operating for more than a year saw a median annual revenue of $130,000 — up from $125,000 at this time last year. It’s a modest increase, but it’s an increase nonetheless. And considering that last year’s figure was up 38% from the year before, we can confidently say that the trend is heading in the right direction.
The revenue picture looks even more promising when we dig into the numbers for returning members. Of those who renewed their membership in 2023, 82% experienced an increase in revenue year-over-year. These renewing members increased their annual revenue by about $50,000, or a median increase of 28%.
Take The Haitian Times as an example. The publication, which covers Haiti and the Haitian diaspora in the United States, saw a revenue increase of 27.3% in 2023, adding about $70,000 to its bottom line. Founder and publisher Garry Pierre-Pierre said he achieved this progress by investing in audience development to amplify advertising efforts while building out the operational capacity on his team.
That freed him up to leverage his considerable network and relationship-building skills to focus more on revenue generation and undertake long-dreamed-of ideas for the business-side of his organization. But even then, he forces himself to slow down and take it step-by-strategic-step.
“It’s a marathon, not a sprint,” Pierre-Pierre said. “If I try to go too fast, I’m gonna crash.”
Read more about independent news success stories and what trends we’re seeing in our latest member data.
– Lisa Heyamoto & Chloe Kizer and the LION team
How to become a better manager
Speaking of growing revenue, being an independent publisher means there’s no expectation of using a windfall to boost shareholder dividends or write bonus checks to execs.
In our experience, LIONs use that money to hire people! And that often introduces a new (but very welcome) challenge of learning how to manage a growing team.
We’ll be sharing newsroom management tips and resources this month, starting with some reading and listening materials that are a great starting place for independent news leaders.
A LION conversation about news business leadership and management, hosted by Outlier Media executive director Candice Fortman.
And running a newsroom is hard and getting harder
Answer: more diverse, interdisciplinary, and intentional
Trainers Judith Smelser and Mike Marcotte discuss the new skills required when a reporter moves into a leadership position.
Now here are 11 other resources and opportunities for independent publishers:
1. Apply for a LION Sustainability Audit. Members can get a holistic assessment of the health of their news business. If you’re not yet a LION member, apply now.
2. Elevate your solutions journalism. Sign up for a free online course with the Solutions Journalism Network. (May 8 – June 4)
3. Connect with fellow solopreneurs at a virtual game session for people running their own one-person operations. (May 16)
4. Get free registration for ONA23 by applying to be a volunteer. (Deadline: May 18)
5. Connect with local news publishers in the South. Join us this month for the The Deep South News Sustainability Meetup in Jackson, Mississippi. (May 18)
6. Set up a fact-checking system. LION member PublicSource will share how they’ve learned to make fact-checking a consistent (and efficient) part of their workflows as a lean newsroom. (May 22)
7. Apply for ONA’s Online Journalism Awards. Entries are now open for the 2023 Online Journalism Awards, which offer up to $32,000 in prize money. (Deadline: May 25)
8. Save the date for Durham. Our Southeast News Sustainability Meetup in Durham, North Carolina, will also host the 2023 LION Local Journalism Awards Ceremony. (October 3-4)
9. Build an audience engagement strategy for your newsletter. Join ONA for the third session in a series of online idea swaps for newsletter professionals. (July 18)
10. Republish stories about rural issues. Grist and the Center for Rural Strategies are making all content on their Rural Newswire available for other news organizations to republish for free.
11. Learn how to sell newsletter ads. This guide from The Newsletter Operator will help you build your sponsor page and media kit.
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What we’re reading
The economics of independence. Why making a living as an independent publisher is more viable now than ever. (Simon Owens’s Media Newsletter)
Smart leadership. Why inclusive leaders are good for organizations, and how to become one. (Harvard Business Review)
Burned out. What researchers have learned about the crisis of burnout in local newsrooms and what’s driving it. (Center for Innovation and Sustainability in Local Media)
Growing pains. How to avoid “founder’s syndrome” as your news organization grows beyond its humble beginnings. (The Lenfest Institute)
Bluesky thinking. What LION members and other publishers are “skeeting” on the latest new platform to challenge Twitter. (Nieman Lab)
LIONs in the news
The Institute for Nonprofit News has announced its 2023 Emerging Leaders Council, and the group includes LION members Daniel Nichanian from Bolts, Courtney Teague from Honolulu Civil Beat, Nina Misuraca Ignaczak from Planet Detroit, and Alyia Paulding from PublicSource.
Congrats to these news leaders and the rest of the cohort!
In other LION member news…
- Boulder Reporting Lab publisher Stacy Feldman and The Mendocino Voice publisher Kate Maxwell have been named 2023-2024 RJI Fellows.
- The Food Section has been nominated for the 2023 James Beard Awards in two categories.
- The finalists for the 2023 Livingston Awards include Samantha Hogan from The Maine Monitor, James Barragán from The Texas Tribune, and Phoebe Petrovic from Wisconsin Watch.
How to reach us
When you reply to this email, we all receive it and you’ll hear back from one of us. You can also email us directly at [email protected]