Last year, 100 LION members participated in the LION-GNI Sustainability Audits and Funding program to assess their news businesses, prioritize steps toward stability and growth and leverage $6,000 in funding to act on strategic recommendations. We’re thrilled to be able to extend that opportunity to another 75 LIONs this year. Applications are due for Cycle 1 by May 30 and for Cycle 2 by August 28. Applications will re-open in 2024.
Still on the fence about participating? Here’s what members say they’ve gotten out of the program, and why you should apply.
1. The ability to step back and see the big picture.
Time and again we’ve heard Audit participants express some variation of the following: “I knew (or thought I knew) what I needed to do, but I wasn’t sure where to begin.”
That’s not surprising. LION members are driven, entrepreneurial and are experts on their communities and their news businesses. But the possibilities for revenue streams, product development, audience growth strategies, staffing and all the other aspects of running an independent news business are countless, and deciding which to pursue can feel overwhelming.
The Sustainability Audit report offers a digestible, actionable set of recommendations tailored to the unique circumstances you’re facing, written by experts who’ve been there. Those recommendations help establish a clear roadmap for each publisher, which eases the decision-making burden and makes it easier to start acting on operational and financial goals.
Here’s what a few participants had to say:
2. A clear set of next steps.
Okay, so you’ve set priorities for your news business. But acting on them is a whole other challenge. Which CRM or email provider should I use? What do I need to include in an employee handbook? How should I structure my media kit? How can I get the most out of my analytics set up? How do I get started with financial reporting and budgeting?
We’ve got you!
The Audit report doesn’t just identify areas on which to act, it also offers structured steps and specific resources to help you evaluate your options, decide what’s right for your business and implement your plans.
Here’s an example recommendation, edited to remove identifying information:
|Track and regularly review audience metrics.|
|Audience numbers and demographics tell a story, but not one with enough detail to meaningfully inform your strategy and efforts. The newsletter size is rather small compared to the site’s traffic. So let’s capture a detailed picture of who your audience is and what they’re doing, followed up with structured audience research to learn more about what people need/want. That’s how you will be able to understand your audience and plan with confidence, leveraging all that information into a stronger membership program and more data-informed pitches for ads and sponsorships.|
By regularly measuring your audience’s interactions with you, you’ll be able to:
|Identify the metrics you want to track. Consider:|
-News vs returning users (a metric to pay attention to as it indicates habit, something you want to build for sustainability)
-Age, gender, deviceAudience behavior (time spent, top pages, scroll depth)
-Audience source (organic, direct, social, referral, email)
-Top Google search terms
-ROI on social activities (conversion to newsletter subscribers and donations/members)
-Total subscribers versus loyal subscribers
-Website visitors from newsletters (see how product is driving conversion)
-Campaign performance (opens, click-to-open, emails sent, unsubscribes
-Delivery rate (helps indicate if you’re running into any issues)
Get started with Better News’ newsroom analytics primer as a guide. Set up the GA4 audience dashboard (if you use Google Analytics). Review Brian Boyer’s Measuring success slides. Be sure to review your analytics regularly (at least monthly)
Institute for Nonprofit News, Goals and Conversions
Open News, Upgrade your analytics
Google Analytics 4 Academy
Google Analytics, News Consumer Insights
Dan Oshinksy, Two Google Analytics Dashboards to Help You Track the Success of Your Newsletters
Recommendations will ultimately be tailored to your capacity, aspirations and current state.
Again, here’s what LIONs had to say:
3. Help getting started.
It can be difficult to take action on something new in hectic day-to-day of running a news business. The $6,000 in funding associated with the Audit can have an outsized impact by providing leaders with the opportunity to try something new. Many Audit participants cited the funding as the catalyst they needed to implement something they’d been wanting to try or putting off.
Here’s what LIONs had to say about their experience allocating the funding:
Applications are due for Cycle 1 by May 30 and for Cycle 2 by August 28. Applications will open again in early 2024. We’ll host a Q&A on Thursday, May 11 to answer any questions you might have about participating. You can also email questions at any time to [email protected].
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Introducing LION’s 2023-2024 board and executive leadership
Gunita Singh, from Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, will be this year’s board chair.
Focusing on People Operations for Innovation and Training
How La Converse and École Converse prioritized hiring and onboarding processes to support their growth.