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“You can’t afford to be wrong.” 

That quote from Henrico Citizen founder Tom Lappas has stuck with me this month, and I think it will ring true for many news founders. 

Unlike some media executives who can blow millions of dollars on a half-baked idea, independent publishers have to make their big investments count. If they don’t, it’s not just their reputation at risk. It’s often their livelihood, as well as those of the teams they employ.

That’s why we decided to kick off our new content series at LION with a focus on audience research – because there’s no better way to de-risk a news idea than to understand the people who will be endorsing it (or not) with their clicks, shares, donations or other contributions. 

So how are independent publishers using audience research to make smarter, more responsible investments? 

Read about three audience strategies that are helping LION members grow their reach and revenue.  

P.S. Tom’s quote ☝️ is a sneak preview from our upcoming News Guest episode, which features fantastic advice about planning for revenue growth as an independent publisher. You can subscribe to News Guest on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts. 
– Ben DeJarnette, communications manager, and the LION team

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8 resources for independent publishers

1. Increase reader engagement and revenue by signing up for Google’s NCI Shift, a two-month program based on the News Consumer Insights analytical framework. Use the program code #startups. (Deadline: September 6)

2. Get free marketing advice at this SCORE workshop where “no question is too basic and no question is too hard.” (September 6) 

3. Connect with other rural entrepreneurs at the Radically Rural summit in Keene, New Hampshire, and use the code JOURNALISM for $20 off your registration. (September 21-22)

4. Plan ahead for tax season by learning what you can do before the end of 2022 to take advantage of small business tax breaks. (September 29)

5. Join the leaders of independent news in Austin for the Independent News Sustainability Summit, hosted by LION Publishers, News Revenue Hub and RevLab at the Texas Tribune. (October 27-29)

6. Pitch a partnership to build journalism products, tools or resources with the Reynolds Journalism Institute Innovation Team. (Deadline: Rolling)  

7. Make collaboration pay off by reading this new guide from The Lenfest Institute on how journalism collaboratives make money.  

8. Find tools to improve your tech stack. The LION’s Tools & Services Directory features the most popular tools we know about for accounting, publishing, analytics and more.

Meet our third Sustainability Audit cohort

The LION-GNI Sustainability Audit and Funding program gives publishers personalized advice and up to $6,000 to help them build more sustainable small businesses, and we’ve nearly reached our goal of supporting 100 publishers through this program in 2022. 

“I have already begun acting on some of the recommendations and in quite literally one day attracted more monthly supporters than I have any other day in the existence of our publication,” said Ryan Sorrell of the Kansas City Defender. 

Meet the 25 publishers chosen to participate in our third audit cycle – and apply by October 10 if you’re a LION member and want to participate in our final cycle of 2022.

What we're reading

Conversion tips. What independent publishers can learn about membership and subscription conversion from the best in the business. (The Fix

Collaborative ad sales. What happened when New Jersey publishers worked together to sell ads across their network. (The Lenfest Institute)

Community building. Four strategies for building an online community that your readers will value. (Simon Owens’s Media Newsletter)

Next generation. How Millennial and Gen Z Americans consume and think about local and national news. (American Press Institute)

Youth movement. How student journalists are helping address news gaps from California to Vermont. (Poynter)

LIONs in the news

We’ll be announcing the finalists of the LION Local Journalism Awards soon, but some of our members aren’t waiting that long to bring home honors. 

Congrats to the following LION member organizations that were chosen as finalists for INN’s Nonprofit News Awards
  • Asheville Watchdog
  • Block Club Chicago
  • Borderless
  • California Health Report
  • Cardinal News
  • City Limits
  • Documented
  • El Paso Matters
  • Enlace Latino NC
  • Flatwater Free Press
  • Honolulu Civil Beat
  • Inewsource
  • The Kansas City Defender
  • The Maine Monitor
  • Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting
  • Mission Local
  • Muckrock
  • Mississippi Free Press
  • The Objective
  • Prison Journalism Project
  • PublicSource
  • Shasta Scout
  • Southerly
  • The Texas Tribune
  • Wisconsin Watch
And in other LION member news…
  • NC Health News won 17 awards at the North Carolina Press Association’s annual awards ceremony, including third place for general excellence among online-only news sites.
  • The Red Hook Daily Catch was featured by Poynter as one of the participants in this month’s Democracy Day collaboration.

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