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We’re interrupting our regularly scheduled newsletter to share a quick PSA:

The early-bird registration deadline for the Independent News Sustainability Summit is TOMORROW, August 19. 

Register for the Summit today to confirm your spot and take advantage of the $50 discount

Got questions? Here are answers to a few of the more common ones:

  • Should I register now even if I’m waiting to hear back about a session pitch or travel scholarship application? Yes. If you’re selected as a speaker – or if you don’t receive a travel scholarship and can’t afford to attend without one – you’ll be able to request a refund. (Our goal is to let everyone who submitted session pitches know by the end of this week).
  • Do I need to be vaccinated and boosted for COVID-19 policy to attend the Summit? Yes, all attendees will be required to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination and one booster shot. 
  • Will masks be required? Mask use is encouraged. We will decide whether to require masks closer to the event, considering factors such as local case counts, the City of Austin’s policy and our own community’s comfort.
  • What sessions can I expect at the Summit? We’re announcing new sessions every week as they get confirmed, and we plan to have a full schedule ready to share by early September.  
You can learn more about the Summit on the conference website. And now let’s talk about surveys…

3 questions for your next audience survey

We’re doing a deep dive on audience research this month, and there aren’t many better (or easier) ways to get started than with a reader survey. 

What makes a good survey? That really depends on the problem you’re trying to solve or the information you’re trying to learn.

For example, here are three research needs that would require three very different types of questions to be effective:

I want to collect demographic data so that I can provide a more detailed audience profile to prospective advertisers or funders.  

This is an underappreciated role of audience research. Advertisers might ask about the average age of your audience. Foundations might ask about racial and gender diversity. Everyone will ask about income levels. 

A survey can help you answer with real data instead of anecdotes or speculation, and the questions used to collect this information are all relatively simple. 

I want to know how much people like my publication so that I can identify supporters and learn from critics.

You’ve probably taken a survey before with a question like: “On a scale of 1-10, how likely are you to recommend our product to a friend or colleague?”

This question is used to calculate a Net Promoter Score – and it’s also a great way to identify your biggest fans (aka the people most likely to become members or donors) as well as people who have feedback to share about how you can improve. 

I want to know what people find frustrating and/or delightful about my news site so that I can make improvements to the user experience. 

Audience analytics can tell you how many people visit a post on your website and how long they spend there, but they won’t tell you if images aren’t rendering correctly, embedded forms are glitching, or your mobile site is behaving weirdly. 

To better understand the user experience, consider asking a combination of open-ended sentiment questions (e.g. what do you like most/least about our website?) as well as specific questions about behavior (e.g. what device do you use most often when reading our content?) 

For more advice on building an audience survey, check out these resources and upcoming opportunities for independent publishers: – Ben DeJarnette, communications manager, and the LION team

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8 resources for independent publishers

1. Build a better subscription program. Sign up for Zephr’s mini-training series where this week’s expert Shannan Bowen will talk about 'funnel-ology,' aka building an audience funnel from anonymous users through to sales. (Sponsored)
2. Get your business on a better foundation. The Google News Initiative's Digital Foundations Lab will help publishers set up Google Analytics, implement smarter workflows and prepare to grow revenue. (Deadline: Today, August 18)

3. Trade ideas for writing better newsletters. ONA is hosting an idea-swapping meetup for newsletter editors, producers and anyone interested in starting or improving a newsletter product for news. (Tomorrow, August 19)

4. Enter the ‘Local that Works’ contest. The $20,000 cash prize will go to an organization that “demonstrates the power of local media to inform, engage, educate, inspire, convene, and transform communities.” (Deadline: August 23) 

5. Earn revenue from branded content. This four-week bootcamp will help you get started with branded content and find your first clients. (Week of August 29)

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

7. 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)

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.

What we're reading

Silver linings. How laid-off journalists can ditch the corporate media world and become independent news founders. (Simon Owens’s Media Newsletter)

Independent-ish. How independent creators are landing themselves a steady paycheck through an experimental program at Morning Brew. (Axios)

Play to pay. How games and puzzles are helping publishers retain more paying subscribers. (Nieman Lab)

Power sharing. What a LION member learned from co-reporting a story with a Black farmer in Mississippi, and why more white journalists should learn to share their power. (Scalawag)

Life decisions. Why stepping back from “the grind” can be so darn hard, and sometimes so important. (Poynter)

LIONs in the news

The beat goes on! 

That’s the exciting news from Baltimore, where LION member The Baltimore Beat relaunched as a Black-led, nonprofit newsroom this month after a four-year hiatus. 

Listen to editor-in-chief Lisa Snowden talk about her vision for The Baltimore Beat on NPR

And in other LION member news…
  • The Daily Catch was also featured on NPR – in a 40-minute episode about its partnership with Pavel Kuljuk, a correspondent in Eastern Ukraine. You can catch a seven-minute version of the story on Morning Edition.
  • Shasta Scout founder Annelise Pierce continued her Open Notebook series with a personal essay about how her personal history informs her approach to abortion coverage.

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