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News Guest

News Guest

By LION Publishers
Practical advice about how to build a stronger, more sustainable news business
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Part II: What news founders wish they’d known about launching a media business
In Part I of this conversation, we talked with Santa Cruz Local founder Kara Meyberg Guzman about finding a sustainable workload and with Gettysburg Connection founder Chuck Stangor about building and managing a tech stack. In this month’s episode, we hear from three more independent news publishers about their advice for first-time founders: Don’t wait to file your IRS paperwork. If you plan to operate your business as a nonprofit, Shasta Scout founder Annelise Pierce warns that it can take a long time to get official 501(c)3 status – and you might need to find a fiscal sponsor in the meantime. Start thinking about revenue early. RevLab director Emily Dresslar says founders should build a revenue strategy right out of the gate and even consider trying to get sponsors or advertisers on board before launch. Embrace learning on the job. To close out the episode (and Season 1 of News Guest!), we turned the tables on our host Candice Fortman and asked what she’s learned since becoming executive director of Outlier Media three years ago. Her biggest lesson: There’s no way to prepare for leading a news organization for the first time. You just have to learn on the job. Related reading: Nonprofit or For-Profit — Which Model is Right for your Newsroom? by Jo Ellen Green Kaiser 5 Tips for Choosing a Fiscal Sponsor for your Newsroom by Jo Ellen Green Kaiser Village Media, Relying on Local Advertising, Seems to Have Found a Scalable (and Profitable) Local News Model by Christine Schmidt This episode of News Guest is sponsored by Stacker, the newswire that independent publishers trust for data-driven stories, graphics, and analysis – all at no cost. Request a demo»
April 12, 2022
Part I: What news founders wish they'd known about launching a media business
Getting an independent local news business off the ground is no small feat, and figuring out how to keep it going can be even harder. So we asked publishers: What do you wish you'd known about launching a news business before you started? In this episode of News Guest, we talk with two LION members about their perspectives on that question and the lessons they’ve learned the hard way: To build a sustainable news business, set a sustainable workload: Santa Cruz Local founder Kara Meyberg Guzman explains how she found herself working 80 hours a week as a news founder – and how she and her team made a plan to fix that. Beware the plug-ins: Gettysburg Connection founder Chuck Stangor talks about building a website on WordPress and learning how to manage all the plug-ins that have become part of his “tech stack.” Related resources: Sign up for the News Founder Challenge, a six-week newsletter course that will help you test and refine your news business idea.  Read the GNI Startups Playbook, a step-by-step guide to building and launching a news business.  RSVP for LION's News Founder Meetup (March 16, 2022) to meet other aspiring and early-stage news founders and ask Kara your questions about launching a business.
March 09, 2022
How to make "solutions journalism" part of your revenue strategy
Research shows that solutions journalism can combat news fatigue, build trust with readers, and deliver more impact than reporting focused on problems alone. But can solutions journalism move the needle on revenue? In this episode of News Guest, you’ll hear two perspectives on that question – first, from Flint Beat founder Jiquanda Johnson in an interview with our host Candice Fortman, and then from Alec Saelens, who’s the Newsroom Revenue Manager at the Solutions Journalism Network. Related Resources: Read the Solutions Journalism Network's Revenue Playbook. If you're a LION member, sign up for a one-hour workshop with SJN’s Alec Saelens to learn about practical steps you can take to attract sponsorships, grants, reader revenue and other funding to support your solutions journalism and strengthen your business.
January 19, 2022
7 ideas to make your news business more sustainable in 2022
Our hypothesis at LION is that the path to sustainability for independent news businesses starts with a strong foundation of operational resilience, financial health, and journalistic impact. But what do these three pillars look like in practice? In our latest episode of News Guest, we explore seven ideas to improve news business sustainability that were first shared at the 2021 LION Local Journalism Awards, including ideas for organizing your team, engaging your audience, and streamlining your workflows. Related reading: Watch all seven "lightning talk" presentations from the LION Local Journalism Awards Hear Broadstreet Ads founder Kenny Katzgrau explain five key advantages that local publishers have for selling digital advertising This episode is sponsored by Broadstreet Ads, in recognition of LION’s Local Journalism Awards and the continued dedication and excellence of LION members across North America.
December 22, 2021
How to pitch your journalism to local funders and build stronger biz relationships
Fall means peak fundraising season for many news organizations — and our three guests today are full of advice about how to build relationships with potential funders, especially those without a long history of supporting journalism. Kimberly Griffin is the publisher and director of revenue for Mississippi Free Press; Kimberly Spencer is the senior director of development and donor relations at Chalkbeat, which reports on education across America; and Robert Chappell is the associate publisher for Madison365, a local news site that serves communities of color in Madison, Wisconsin. Bonus for LION members: Join us on Tuesday, November 30 for a LION Lesson that will help you build or refine an end-of-year fundraising campaign. If you’re starting from scratch, we’ll give you advice on how to develop a lightweight membership or donation campaign that you can launch before the holidays. If you’re already deep in the weeds, we’ll help you get peer feedback on your campaign messaging or tactics. RSVP here for the LION Lesson, and let us know in the registration form what support you’re looking for so that we can cater the breakout groups to your needs. Related Reading: What 16 publishers learned pitching funders on journalism projects (Local Media Association) Crafting a winning pitch to attract funding (IJNet) 3 ways the nonprofit newsroom PublicSource is becoming more sustainable (LION Publishers)
November 17, 2021
How Scalawag’s events are widening its membership funnel and leading to its next phase of growth
Scalawag has learned that in-person and virtual events can be a powerful “top of funnel” marketing tool for membership by helping introduce its brand to the kind of progressive, diverse, engaged Southerners who are most likely to become paying supporters. In this episode, Scalawag executive director Cierra Hinton and audience growth and engagement manager Sarah Glen share what they’ve learned about hosting great events as community-building and revenue-growth strategies that will pave the way for their next phase of growth. Related reading: How Scalawag made the growth case for events (Membership Puzzle Project) Here's how the subscriber funnel, or whatever you want to call it, works (Poynter) Journalism needs to connect the dots between audience engagement and making money. The key might be the concept of a marketing funnel (GroundSource) Want to make your journalism more memberful? Find a range of proven practices, including revenue-generating routines (Membership Puzzle Project) Why the South needs movement journalism (Scalawag)
October 20, 2021
How El Tímpano unlocked a new revenue stream by serving “hard-to-reach” communities
Reader revenue often gets talked up as the future of local news, but what about the people who can’t afford to pay? In this episode of News Guest, Candice talks with El Tímpano founder Madeleine Bair about meeting information needs in low-income communities — and how her nonprofit newsroom unlocked a new revenue stream by doing exactly that.
August 23, 2021
How The 19th* learned from early mistakes and revised its growth plan
The 19th* is celebrating its first birthday this month, and there’s a lot to celebrate, from a $12 million fundraising haul to its nearly 11,000 paying members.  But co-founder and publisher Amanda Zamora says the high-flying independent news startup has also made a few mistakes along the way, especially when it comes to planning for and managing growth. In this episode of News Guest, our host Candice Fortman talks with Amanda about the idea behind The 19th* and the challenge of launching it during a pandemic, as well as what she'd do differently if she could start again.
August 03, 2021
How The Objective is trying to scale up by slowing down
An all-volunteer passion project grows into a full-fledged news operation, with staff to manage, contractors to pay, and a business to run. Gabe Schneider and The Objective team have spent the last 12 months charging full speed ahead at this transition, but now they’re about to try something different: slowing down. In this episode of News Guest, our host Candice Fortman talks with Gabe and his colleague Janelle Salanga about why they’ve decided to take a break from publishing at The Objective this summer, and how they plan to use this pause to set themselves up for success.
July 07, 2021
How RANGE built a newsletter audience from scratch — and converted 9 percent of readers to paying members
Last summer, Luke Baumgarten was one of 24 aspiring news entrepreneurs selected to participate in the inaugural Startups Boot Camp, a partnership between LION and the Google News Initiative. Today, he’s the publisher of RANGE, a solutions-focused local news organization with nearly 1,000 newsletter readers and 100 paying members. In this episode of News Guest, Outlier Media executive director Candice Fortman talks with Luke about his first six months as an independent news founder, plus the creative growth tactics he used to build his audience from scratch.
June 07, 2021
How Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service built a racially diverse team that reflects the community it serves
Many news organizations across the country have *talked* about diversifying their teams and prioritizing equity and inclusion, especially in the wake of last year's Black Lives Matter protests. The Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service has actually done it. Nearly 70 percent of MNNS's paid staff identify as people of color, including its top editor Ron Smith — and it's not by accident. In this episode of News Guest, our host Candice Fortman talks with Ron about the approaches to recruitment, hiring, and training that have helped Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service build one of the most racially diverse news teams in the country, and what the rest of us can learn from it. 
May 04, 2021
How Block Club Chicago turned a viral story into a $100,000 campaign
Gator Watch officially began on July 9, 2019, when the nonprofit newsroom Block Club Chicago broke the news of a rare alligator sighting in west Chicago. 30 stories and 4,000 T-shirts later, Gator Watch went down not only as a viral content series, but also as one of Block Club’s most successful fundraising campaigns ever, bringing in more than $100,000 in merchandise sales alone. In this episode, Candice talks with Stephanie Lulay and Maple Walker Lloyd about the story behind Gator Watch, and how Block Club Chicago’s broader merch strategy is creating a new source of revenue.
April 05, 2021