By Seattle Medium Staff
The Seattle Medium newspaper, along with the 9 other publishers that make up Word In Black, are part of the first cohort group for the Knight x LMA BloomLab. The lab, which supports the sustainability for Black locally owned and operated media, will support technology upgrades and training to support digital growth and revenue.
The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation recently announced an investment of more than $4 million over three years to help local publishers of color become more financially sustainable. The investment, which builds on Knight’s long-time support for diverse communities, aligns with Knight’s strategy to help journalists, publishers and newsrooms increase trust, reach diverse audiences and generate sustainable revenue models.
With Technology being roadblock for many local media companies as they work to transform to a digital future, the Knight x LMA BloomLab will tackle that obstacle head-on during a three-year immersive experience with 26 Black-owned local media outlets, with initial funding of $3.2 million from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. The publications will receive technology grants of $50,000, with additional funding expected to increase those amounts.
In addition to the Knight x LMA BloomLab, Knight’s investments include startup networks Capital B and URL Media, as well as the International Women’s Media Foundation’s Gwen Ifill Mentorship Program to increase newsroom leadership diversity.
“These investments show just how important continued support for publishers of color remains in the industry,” said Jim Brady, Knight’s vice president of Journalism. “Many legacy Black newspapers remain trusted voices in their communities, but have struggled as more Americans get their news from digital sources. Supporting legacy newsrooms and nurturing startup networks run by innovative leaders shows our commitment to publishers of color, helping Knight better serve the information needs of these communities.”
The Knight x LMA BloomLab is an extension of LMA’s Digital Transformation Lab for Black publishers that launched in early 2019. That lab helped drive digital revenue and audience growth, along with new product launches such as newsletters, for five Black publishers.
The new Lab will include three full-time dedicated staff members who will work with the publishers on an everyday basis. The entire Local Media Association/Local Media Foundation team will also be involved in the BloomLab as subject-matter experts in areas such as reader revenue, branded content, philanthropic funding and more.
The Lab’s first cohort includes: The Atlanta Voice, New York Amsterdam News, Houston Defender, Washington Informer, St. Louis American, AFRO News, Seattle Medium, Sacramento Observer, Michigan Chronicle and Dallas Weekly.
“Thanks to the LMA Lab we were able to significantly grow our digital revenue and audience, especially around newsletters and promotions,” said Elinor Tatum, publisher and owner, New York Amsterdam News. “The Knight x LMA Bloom Lab will help take our transformation to a whole new level. We’re especially excited about the technology stipends and dedicated resources to help us execute.”
“The Seattle Medium is excited to be a part of the first cohort of the Knight x LMA Bloom Lab,” said Chris B. Bennett, publisher/CEO of The Seattle Medium newspaper. “Participation in the lab will allow us to invest in the technology/training that we need to increase revenue and grow our digital presence in a way that will position us for long term sustainability and success.”
Lab focus areas:
• Technology upgrades: Identify and implement technologies to accelerate publishers’ local business transformations. The Lab team will work with the individual publishers to vet local needs and technology projects; negotiate with providers; approve and distribute stipends; and assist with implementation, onboarding and optimization.
• Business transformation consulting: The Lab team will provide one-on-one and group consulting and training, including digital revenue and product strategies for newsletters, memberships, branded content, events, philanthropic funding, advertising and marketing services. The Lab team will serve as an extension of each publisher’s staff and will provide onsite training and implementation of new technology.
• Shared learning opportunities: The Lab will provide outside expertise on relevant subjects as well in-person experiences.
“Since establishing sustainability for publishers of color as one of our four core pillars in 2018, the LMA has helped nearly 100 BIPOC organizations with business transformation, monetization and audience-building strategies,” said Nancy Lane, LMA’s chief executive officer. “The Knight x LMA BloomLab will take these efforts to a whole new level as we will be able to provide unprecedented resources, specifically focused on technology, to a group of 26 Black-owned-and-operated media organizations. We’re thrilled to partner with the Knight Foundation on this groundbreaking industry initiative.”
These grants complement Knight’s $300 million, five-year commitment to invest in new, scalable initiatives with the potential to underpin a fresh future for local news and strengthen journalism.
For more on Knight’s strategy to support local news, visit: https://knightfoundation.org/features/localnews/