Three things to do right now to strengthen your local news business during the coronavirus pandemic
LION Publishers, an association for local news startups, supports more than 200 independent local news businesses across the country. When
LION Publishers, an association for local news startups, supports more than 200 independent local news businesses across the country. When coronavirus hit, we knew we needed to offer practical, step-by-step guidance on what our members should do to manage their businesses.
We’re grateful that media consultants Tim Griggs and Ryan Tuck offered to quickly throw together a presentation on the high-level steps a local news business owner needs to take *right now* to understand their financial position, plan for multiple best and worst-case scenarios, and take advantage of the audience opportunity.
On Friday, April 3 more than 150 people joined our 60-minute webinar, sponsored by Web Publisher PRO, which you can download here, along with the slide deck and other resources that we pulled together. And here’s a summary that Nieman Lab’s Sarah Scire published about the presentation.
Also, while there are a growing number of grant and loan opportunities, for the most part, they involve a lot of waiting. Based on Ryan and Tim’s presentation, here are three things you can implement right now.
- Understand your cash flow. That means being able to answer these two questions: What is my cash position? (i.e. How much cash do I have on hand?) What is my burn rate? (At my current spending levels, if I don’t bring in another dollar, how long before I run out of money?) Tim and Ryan also shared this statistic: The average small business, across all industries, has just 27 days of cash on hand, according to JPMorgan Chase Institute.
- Use a cash flow forecast tool to plan for your best and worse case scenarios. Focusing on cash is crucially important. Cash flow forecasting can help you estimate (and adjust) this key question: What steps can you take to maximize cash and operate as long as possible during the crisis?Regarding expenses, you should be asking: Can I eliminate, reduce or defer or delay any of my expenses? Regarding revenue streams, you should be asking: With every line of revenue, what can I do to increase the source or cash, and/or accelerate the timing? When you download the webinar and resources, you’ll find a cash flow spreadsheet tool that will allow you to play around with your expenses and revenue numbers.
- Be transparent and don’t be afraid to ask for help. We are all in this crisis together, and it’s affecting nearly everyone’s life in some way. So be transparent with your team and explain as clearly as possible what’s happening with your business. And be as transparent as you can with your readers and supporters –– that includes your board members, major donors, sponsors or advertisers. As Tim and Ryan said, this is not the time to be shy, so be ready with one clear call to action –– donate, sign up for a newsletter, etc. –– and make sure it’s as easy as possible for folks to find and respond to that ask across all your products and interactions with them. There are a ton more examples of how local news organizations are messaging their reader asks in the webinar.
Access the full webinar and resources by signing up for LION’s weekly newsletter.
P.S. If you are a local, independent, digitally native news publication in the U.S. and Canada, tell us about your business so we can include you in our soon-to-be-launched public database, as part of our Project Oasis initiative.
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