3 ways to set smarter goals for your news business
What does it take to set (and reach) effective goals for your news business?
As we continue this month’s series on goal-setting, today we have some insights to share from LION members and other independent publishers in our News Entrepreneur Community:
1. Use ‘stretch goals’ to balance being realistic and ambitious. Two years ago, The Objective was trying to transition from an all-volunteer effort to a more sustainable news organization that could pay its contributors and staff.
To reach that big-picture goal, co-founder Gabe Schneider knew they’d need to raise more money, and he was realistic enough to know that wouldn’t happen all at once.
“Over the next 12 months, our conservative revenue goal is enough to fairly pay our writers, editors, and the folks on the newsletter,” he shared in the News Entrepreneur Community Slack group. “A more ambitious one is our ability to build salaries into the work for the entire admin team.”
Here’s an update on those goals that Gabe shared with The Objective’s readers less than a year later – and here’s some good advice on when and how to use stretch goals.
2. Share your goals publicly. Letting your audience know what you’re working toward isn’t just good transparency. It’s also a way to invite their help, whether you’re raising money or trying to reach your next newsletter subscriber milestone.
“I’d start with setting a goal of how much you want to raise and connecting it to a specific thing you want to use that money to achieve,” media consultant Steven Smith recommended. “Generally speaking, you’re going to generate more interest when you have something to offer beyond just a donate button on the website.”
Here’s what research shows about the benefits of announcing your goals publicly.
3. Use goals to motivate and evaluate employees. A common mistake that small businesses leaders make is failing to set specific goals for their employees, which makes it harder to know when a new hire isn’t working out or when a high-performing colleague deserves more responsibility.
“I suggest writing a job description, setting specific goals for how someone can perform well, and imagining ways you can give them specific responsibilities and authority to creatively problem solve,” Grown In co-founder Mike Fourcher wrote on Slack. “Don’t tell them how to do it, tell them what result you want to achieve.”
Here’s a great resource on the importance of setting goals for new hires and how to do it effectively.
P.S. As a reminder, LION members can take this self-guided course on organizational goal setting, taught by LION coach and news business consultant Lizzy Hazeltine.
– Ben DeJarnette, newsletter writer, and the LION team
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9 resources for independent publishers
1. Nominate your early-stage media business for an innovation prize. The Next Challenge for Media & Journalism is a national startup competition seeking groundbreaking for-profit and nonprofit startups that will reinvent media in the coming decade. (Deadline: February 17)
2. Get support as a BIPOC news leader. Apply for the Leadership Academy for Diversity in Media, a one-week, in-person program at Poynter’s campus in Florida. (Deadline: February 17)
3. Get better at managing money. Join a live SCORE webinar to learn practical ways to manage your cash flow, navigate budgeting, and identify business costs versus expenses. (February 21)
- LION members can also take a self-guided course on financial management led by City Bureau’s Harry Backlund.
4. Pitch a session for the INN Days 2023 conference in Washington, D.C. in early summer. (Deadline: February 24)
5. Choose the right business structure. Join this SCORE webinar to learn about the different types of business entities and how to choose the best one for your business. (March 7)
6. Apply for one of these investigative journalism grants with upcoming deadlines:
- The Ida B. Wells Fellowship selects three journalists to pursue an ambitious investigative reporting project and supports them with mentorship and a $25,000 award. (Deadline: March 12)
- The Data-Driven Reporting Project gives financial awards to organizations and freelancers working on document-focused, investigative stories. (Applications open: March 1; Deadline: March 13)
7. Strengthen your editing chops. Apply for ProPublica’s yearlong Investigative Editor Training Program. (Deadline: March 13)
8. Republish original reporting. Nonprofit publishers such as The New Humanitarian and The 19th allow newsrooms to republish their content for free.
9. Borrow this idea for Black History Month coverage. Built Oregon is profiling a local Black founder on social media each day in February.
What we’re reading
Growth mindset. How reader revenue is gaining traction in newsrooms big and small. (What’s New in Publishing)
Stacks of cash. What we can learn about the Substack newsletters that are earning at least $500K per year. (Press Gazette)
Local funding. What New Mexico publishers learned from a statewide matching campaign that helped raise more than $225K. (New Mexico Local News Fund)
Getting personal. How the Detroit Free Press is using personas to better gauge readers’ interests. (Better News)
Bad ads. Why low-quality digital ads appear to be proliferating on Twitter and other social platforms. (The New York Times)
LIONs in the news
Congratulations to all seven LION members who were selected for the latest cohort of CUNY’s Product Immersion for Small Newsrooms program:
- Eden Fineday is a nehiyaw iskwew (Cree woman) from the Sweetgrass First Nation in Treaty 6 territory and the publisher at IndigiNews where she writes the weekly newsletter for subscribers and a bi-weekly column.
- Suzie Genest is the editing manager and a journalist at Monquartier.quebec.
- Dru Oja Jay is publisher of The Breach and executive director of CUTV.
- Michael McGinnis is the founder and editor of Rockton-Roscoe News, an online news publication that serves two adjacent communities in northern Illinois.
- Kelly-Anne Riess is the founder of The Flatlander, a weekly Canadian newsletter that covers important issues impacting the provinces of Saskatchewan and Manitoba.
- Nikita Roy is the founder and publisher of The NRI Nation, a news media startup incubating at the Harvard Innovation Labs.
- Eric Wickham is a podcast producer and journalist for The Hoser, a local news outlet in Toronto.
We are thrilled to welcome 20 newsrooms to the 2023 Advancing Democracy Fellowship, the second year of an initiative that’s jointly run by the Solutions Journalism Network, Hearken and Trusting…
In other LION member news…
- AfroLA has launched a new website that includes verticals on education, labor and infrastructure, healthcare, and justice.
- Chalkbeat Indiana is one of more than 25 partners on a new statewide reporting initiative in Indiana.
- The Indianola Independent Advocate in Indianola, Iowa, was recently named the Indianola Chamber of Commerce’s Emerging Business of the Year.
- San José Spotlight is hiring a director of advertising and sponsorship.
How to reach us
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