4 lessons from independent news leaders
What are your big goals for 2023?
Do you want to launch a new revenue stream? Hire your first employee? Grow your audience?
No matter what’s on your roadmap, there’s a good chance our News Guest podcast can help provide the inspiration and practical advice you need to get started.
Here are a few of the wise words and lessons our guests have shared this season:
💌 Get your reporters involved in fundraising campaigns. The best membership marketing emails are often the ones that come with a personal touch from reporters, and at Richland Source, those personal touches often go hard.
“One reporter said he would eat a raccoon at the Raccoon Festival if we reached our member goal,” said Angie Cirone, former director of journalism sustainability at Richland Source. “Another said he would jump in the freezing lake for the Polar Bear Dip if we reached it. That made the campaign fun and engaging for the readers, and they appreciated that the reporters were putting something on the line.”
➡️ Be direct with your team, even when it’s hard. “My biggest mistake [as a manager] has probably been not trusting myself enough to have the tough conversations with employees that needed to be had,” MLK50 founder Wendi C. Thomas said. “And that’s coming out of fear. It’s not out of kindness or care for the team member, it’s out of me being fearful and not wanting to have that tough conversation.”
💰 Make revenue a priority from the start. When journalists launch their own news businesses, the editorial work often comes most naturally, but Henrico Citizen founder Tom Lappas says it’s the revenue work that needs the most attention.
“I was naive [when we launched] and thought, ‘Hey, if we do a good job with this product, people will gravitate toward it and we will just get advertisers coming our way,’” he said. “A year or so later, I realized that wasn’t exactly how things worked. And then I started thinking more about ‘How are we going to generate the money that we need to keep doing this?’”
🤝 Talk to the people you want to serve. Audience research might sound daunting, but it can start with something as simple as a series of interviews or a focus group conversation.
“Go out and talk to people you don’t know and ask those people to refer you to more people that you don’t know,” said Rebekah Monson, co-founder of Letterhead and WhereBy.Us and board chair of LION Publishers. “Just have as many conversations as you can with as many diverse people as you can to understand the universe you’re working in.”
Don’t miss more inspiration and advice from independent news leaders! Subscribe to the News Guest feed on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you do your streaming, and look out for a new episode next week.
11 resources for independent news publishers
1. Reach new readers. LION and SmartNews have teamed up to help members reach a bigger audience and earn new revenue in the SmartNews partner program. Learn more» (Sponsored)
2. Grow your audience and earn reader revenue. More than 175 organizations have chosen BlueLena’s audience management and strategic marketing to accelerate their digital transformation and build long-term sustainable reader revenue models. Learn more» (Sponsored)
3. Level up your digital news site. TownNews equips local media organizations with the digital services and guidance to transform their business models and flourish in the digital age. Learn more» (Sponsored)
4. Tackle a problem in journalism as a JSK fellow. The John S. Knight Journalism Fellowship is a ten-month program at Stanford that offers individualized coaching, peer support, and a $95,000 stipend. (Deadline: TODAY for international applicants; January 25 for U.S. applicants)
5. Apply for growth capital from Indiegraf’s News Startup Fund before applications “pause” for a month. (Deadline: December 2)
6. Learn how to turn audience data into actionable insights at this Local Media Association webinar. (December 6)
7. Start writing or refining a business plan at this SCORE workshop. (December 7)
8. Protect your brand name, slogan and logo. Hear an attorney explain how to register trademarks and protect your intellectual property at this SCORE webinar. (December 8)
9. Level up your watchdog journalism. Apply for a free newsroom training led by Investigative Reporters & Editors. (Deadline: December 9)
10. Earn more revenue from philanthropy. Register for the virtual 2023 Lenfest News Philanthropy Summit. (January 31-February 1).
11. Launch a worker-led newsroom. Press On curated a list of readings and resources to help you follow in the footsteps of worker-led newsrooms including Defector Media and The Appeal.
What we’re reading
Startup success. How a passion project focused on serving Historically Black College and University (HBCU) communities turned into a profitable media business. (Better News)
Library tour. How LION member Honolulu Civil Beat is using pop-up events to reach new audiences. (Nieman Lab)
Revenue redux. Why micropayments (still) make less sense for publishers than they do for consumers. (The Rebooting)
Mixed reviews. Why journalists are trying out a new alternative to Twitter – and what they’re saying about the experience. (The New York Times)
Digital first. How a Latino newspaper in Philadelphia is retooling for the digital age. (The Philadelphia Inquirer)
LIONs in the news
The New York Times wants its readers to support local news this giving season, and two LION members are the face of the cause.
As part of the NYT’s 2022 Giving Guide, columnist Lydia Polgreen made the case for protecting democracy by donating to local news organizations like THE CITY and Sahan Journal.
“There has been a tremendous flowering of innovation in local news nonprofits,” Polgreen wrote. “New outlets are opening all the time. They rely on their communities to support them.”
Need ideas for how to ask for money from your audience? Here are seven campaign strategies that have been successful for other independent publishers.
In other LION member news…
- City Bureau is hiring a director of communications.
- Documented, El Tímpano, and Enlace Latino NC teamed up to run a joint fundraising effort on Giving Tuesday.
- Long Beach Post CEO David Sommers lived up to his promise to bring a six-foot burrito to the office for Election Night. The staff did their part by eating nearly five feet of it.
How to reach us
When you reply to this email, we all receive it and you’ll hear back from one of us.