It’s too hard to start a local newsroom. The technology can be expensive and confusing; there hasn’t been a clear roadmap from launch to sustainability; and we know from our LION Publishers members that it can be a lonely, uphill climb.
So we’re excited to announce a project — a collaboration among industry leaders and partners — that aims to solve those problems, and welcome new local newsrooms into the field.
It’s called the Tiny News Collective, and it brings together technology, tools, training and community to help a group of aspiring news entrepreneurs focus on what matters most at the critical early stage of their small businesses: Building readership, and growing revenue.
You can read more about the Tiny News mission and ethos on our announcement page, as well as here, where we’re encouraging potential founders to sign up for more information as we begin to open up the application process to join our first cohort.
Why us, why this, and why now?
The Expanding News Deserts project at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill points to a pyramid with a rapidly crumbling foundation. Much of the attention around the future of journalism has been concentrated on saving the top (three national newspapers and 157 metro dailies).
But most digital news sites aren’t aiming to cover the millions of residents served by the top of the pyramid. They have smaller staffs, and are focused on communities constrained by geography or topic. Of the 750 digital news publishers in the U.S. and Canada, 60 percent have fewer than 10 people on staff, according to our forthcoming Project Oasis research with the Google News Initiative.
And there aren’t enough of them to serve communities across the country that have seen legacy players recede; things like ‘ghost newspapers’ that produce smaller editions on fewer days of the week, with less reporters doing the work, funded by vulture capitalists or hedge funds.
Still, the bottom part of the pyramid argues the loudest for regulation and relief to representatives from government, as well as to the platforms that control increasing swaths of the Internet.
We need more independent digital newsrooms, to serve more communities, and to have more of a voice.
How this will work at LION
The work of launching local news efforts has been on the mind and in the programs of the LION Publishers’ team; our work with the Google News Initiative on both Project Oasis and the North American Startups Lab is focusing on offering support and best practices for those on a very similar journey. One of the deliverables from Project Oasis is a Startups Playbook, containing pages of advice and practical lessons learned through hours of interviews with independent news entrepreneurs.
We have also partnered with the GNI to hire a Tiny News Product Manager, who will join LION Publishers’ staff and work to train this cohort of Tiny News companies, and hopefully many more.
Those Tiny News entrepreneurs will also become LION Publishers members from the start — with access to our programming and peer community of hundreds of news entrepreneurs doing this work around the country.
It’s a long, hard road to sustainability. But our LION members don’t have to make that journey alone. The team building the Tiny News Collective will aim to clear more roadblocks, and provide more on-ramps. Because the world is changing.
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