😓 How readers helped a publisher with his burnout


Ryan Belmore didn’t know how to take a break – not when he founded What’sUpNewp as a solopreneur, not five years later when he was diagnosed with stomach cancer, not even when he was driving back and forth to the hospital to undergo chemotherapy. 

“There was so much going on in the community, and What’sUpNewp was a one-man operation with a team of contributors,” Belmore said. “The bell didn’t go off that ‘Hey, you’re going to burn yourself out, and your business is only as healthy as you are.’”

The eureka moment came when Belmore’s readers organized a fundraiser to help him out, and one of the paying subscribers he’d been working so hard to serve encouraged him to take a break. 

“That’s where a lot of the pressure had come from – people giving me money, so I felt like I had to perform for them every day,” Belmore said. “But hearing that feedback, it got me thinking, ‘This business will be OK if I take time off to take care of myself.’”

In our latest episode of News Guest, Belmore and Naseem S. Miller from The Journalist’s Resource talk with our host Candice Fortman about the challenge of burnout and how to avoid it. You can listen on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts

We’re also going to focus on burnout here in the LION newsletter to close out the year, starting today with a few resources for journalists and news leaders:

⚒️ Lead a “work redesign” in your newsroom. This American Press Institute guide shares advice for how to prevent burnout among newsroom managers. 

🏖️ Figure out how to take a real break. When LION members turn the lights off for a month or longer to catch their breath, they almost never regret it. Last year, we talked with Gabe Schneider and Janelle Salanga about their decision to stop publishing new content for the summer as they prepared for a new phase of growth. 

❌ Decide what you’re going to stop doing. You can learn more about the “stop-doing list” and other strategies for preventing burnout by reviewing this slide deck from the Independent News Sustainability Summit, as well as this thread on Twitter.

🎓 Take a course on addressing and avoiding burnout (for LION members only). This self-guided News Entrepreneur Academy course is led by Sushil Cheema, a journalist turned executive coach specializing in burnout and self-care, professional development, interpersonal relationships and communication. 

When did you know you were experiencing burnout? And how have you learned to create a more sustainable workload for yourself? Reply to this newsletter or email [email protected] to let us know, as we’d love to share more practical advice on work-life balance throughout the month. 

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14 ways to build a more sustainable business

Once you’re done planning that next vacation, here are 14 other ways to put your news business on more stable footing:

Improve your business operations 

  • 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)
  • Protect your brand name, slogan and logo. Hear an attorney explain how to register trademarks and protect your intellectual property at this SCORE webinar. (TODAY)  

Earn more revenue

  • Reach new readers. The SmartNews partner program can help LION members reach a bigger audience and earn new revenue. Learn more» (Sponsored)

Increase your impact

  • Level up your watchdog journalism. Apply for a free newsroom training led by Investigative Reporters & Editors. (Deadline: December 9)
  • Talk social media strategy with other digital publishers at this virtual event about what’s next for news on social media after the mass layoffs at Meta and Twitter. (December 18)
  • Learn a new skill or tool to start the year at one of these low-cost virtual workshops offered by CUNY’s Newmark Graduate School of Journalism. (January 4-24)

Check out these grants, awards, fellowships, and conferences

  • 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: January 25 for U.S. applicants)
  • Take a research sabbatical at Harvard by applying for a Nieman Fellowship. (Deadline: January 31)
  • Nominate a great manager to be featured in a Better Leaders Lab interview series about leadership and strategic management in media.

Meet our sponsor: Google News Initiative

It’s been a busy few years for the Google News Initiative and its partnership with LION. 

Since 2020, we’ve published a soup-to-nuts guide to launching a digital news business, run three boot camps for aspiring news founders in the U.S. and Canada, and provided coaching, training and direct funding to more than 150 LION members through the GNI Startups Labs and LION-GNI Sustainability Audits and Funding programs.

That’s why we’re excited to continue our partnership into 2023, as part of GNI’s continued investment in local news startups and news business sustainability. 

Learn more about the Google News Initiative, its partnership with LION, and its plans for 2023. 

P.S. Google News Initiative is offering a two-month immersive News Consumers Insights Shift program based on the News Consumer Insights’ analytical framework to help publishers grow both their reader engagement and reader revenue.

Some reasons to join the NCI Shift program:

  • The program is free, data- driven, actionable and collaborative
  • Receive personalized reader engagement / rReader rRevenue audits with the latest industry best practices
  • Opportunity to share and learn alongside your industry peers
  • Get access to Google’s plug & play subscription & contribution solutions
  • Fully leverage the latest insights tool: the NCI Demo Site

Enter “LION” as the program code in the form. Registrations close on January 31.

-> Join now: Go to goo.gle/ncishift  <-

LION offers sponsorships to software and service providers, educational institutions and other businesses that aim to serve independent news publishers like LION’s members. Learn more about our sponsorships policy and sponsorship opportunities at lionpublishers.com/sponsorship.


What we’re reading

Money on the table. Why news publishers should embrace self-service native advertising – and focus on doing it right. (Simon Owens’s Media Newsletter

Looking up. What Ken Doctor has learned from his first two years leading local news startup Lookout Santa Cruz. (Nieman Lab)

Regression or recession? How the advertising market is expected to grow in 2023 – and how much it’s likely to slow. (Marketing Brew)

New chapter. What Facebook’s exit from local news funding and support could mean for the industry. (Columbia Journalism Review)

Field notes. How rising political extremism is making journalists’ work even harder. (PEN America)


LIONs in the news

Earlier this year, we set out to “look under the hood” of 100 independent news businesses and provide personalized advice and direct funding to help these publishers become more sustainable. 

We also wanted to learn more about the most common challenges our members face and share those findings with the industry – and we started that public retro last week with these seven insights from our Sustainability Audit analysts

Big thanks to all the publishers who participated in the LION-GNI Sustainability Audits and Funding program this year, and to the expert analysts who shared their hard-earned wisdom with our members.  

This program was one of our most popular ever, and we’re excited to share more details about our 2023 plans soon. 

In other LION member news…


How to reach us

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Interested in sponsoring this newsletter? Visit our sponsorships page or email [email protected].

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