LION Publishers
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LION Publishers

Want to launch a local news business? Apply now for the journalism entrepreneurship boot camp

A custom-made program for people who are ready to create a viable business based on delivering reported news or information

A curriculum that is remote-first by design.
  • Wednesday, August 5 at 2:30–3 p.m. PT (RSVP)
  • Thursday, August 13 noon–12:30 PT (RSVP)

How much does the boot camp cost to attend?

Like the last boot camp, If you apply and get accepted into the boot camp — you give it 110% — it will cost you nothing but your time.

What are the dates of the boot camp?

Classes will begin the week of September 21 and end the week of November 9, 2020.

What kinds of business ideas are eligible?

  • Efforts focused on delivering local news and civic information
  • Reporting-based businesses focused on encouraging civic engagement
  • Businesses focused on single-subject reporting that isn’t geographically bound

Who’s the program for?

You should consider this boot camp if:

  • You’re less than a year into running your news business and want to re-evaluate some of your core hypotheses and make adjustments to improve your financial sustainability
  • You’re committed to public-service reporting with communities, not on communities
  • You’re committed to making your business idea financially sustainable as quickly as possible
  • You’re able to commit at least eight hours a week for eight weeks to turn your business idea into reality (ideally, you can commit more time)

Who is eligible to apply?

  • You should be based in, and plan to launch in, the U.S. or Canada
  • You should be comfortable with written and spoken English, as all sessions and assignments will be in English only for this session (I hope we can deliver the boot camp in Spanish and French in the near future.)
  • You can join as an individual or as a team. If you already have a team, up to two of you can participate in the boot camp sessions and coaching. (Sidenote: If you do have a team, a good goal is to have one person for each of these core expertise areas: editorial, business and/or marketing, product and/or technology.)
  • You have some journalism experience or a business background and passion for the community you want to serve
  • If you decide to apply to a future part of this program, you will need to be authorized to work in your country of residence.

How many people are you selecting to participate?

We’ll be selecting up to 24 teams.

Where will the boot camp be held?

The boot camp is entirely online. It’s intentionally designed to be an online experience because we want you to stay in your community and to do the work in that context.

What is the format of the boot camp?

There will be a 90-minute live webinar each week. At the end of the webinar, we’ll have a conversation as a group about the tasks you’ll undertake that week. Once participants are selected, we can choose the day/time that works best for everyone. The sessions will also be recorded for later viewing. At least once a week, teams will have a one-on-one coaching session with me. Teams can select this time each week based on their schedules.

How many hours per week will I need to invest?

I like to answer that by saying “at least part-time hours; ideally a full-time commitment.” I expect participants to plan for at least eight hours a week, preferably a lot more.

How far along should my project be before applying to the boot camp?

I’m excited for you to apply at any stage where you believe the boot camp would help you achieve your objectives. That said, I describe the boot camp as a pre- pre- accelerator program. Practically, that means this is for very early-stage entrepreneurs (or those with entrepreneurial aspirations) and early stage ideas.

Does the boot camp include information on financing my project?

Yes and no. Pulling from interviews I’ve done with successful journalism entrepreneurs, we will discuss the common ways that new businesses are financed in the early stages. And I’ll point you to resources that can help you explore all of the options in more detail on your own time.

Does the boot camp include information on how to write a business plan?

Yes and no. Your weekly assignments will result in documents that answer questions similar to what is often found in a business plan. But these will be in a format that I believe is far more useful in the early stages of a business. For example, simplified revenue projections, a growth roadmap, and various forms of “pitch” documents that help you clearly and concisely explain the idea to others.

Does the boot camp include information to help me decide on the right structure for my project (e.g. non-profit, for-profit, LLC, C-Corp, S-Corp)?

Yes and no. We will discuss the options in the context of a decision that you’ll eventually need to make. And I’ll point you toward ample resources for when the time comes to make that decision.

What are the outcomes of this program? In other words, what should I walk away with?

  • The ability to describe your business idea concisely and compellingly
  • A realistic revenue forecast for the next six, 12, 24, and 36 months.
  • A set of three-month objectives and a plan for how to achieve them
  • A deeper understanding of your community’s needs, and how your project will meet those needs
  • Confidence from having run small experiments to prove your idea and that have provided you with valuable, objective data on your business’s viability
  • Knowledge of which technology and tools are the best fit for your undertaking
  • A “continuous innovation” mindset that will help to keep your project relevant for years to come
  • And, most optimistically, some customers!

How do I participate in the program?

Applications are now open, and you can apply here by August 17, 2020. When applying, you will be asked to provide basic information about your personal and professional backstory, as well as the business idea that you hope to develop further in the boot camp. Here’s a copy of the application to download before you begin.

What must I do to complete the program?

  • Attend or watch the weekly seminar each week (if you have a team member, you may switch off and all sessions are recorded)
  • Complete at least four out of eight one-on-one coaching sessions
  • Submit a weekly status update and short survey
  • Demonstrate significant effort at completing the weekly assignments
  • Submit a final video pitch for your project

Will you publicly announce my participation in this program? Do I need to let my current employer know I will be participating?

We understand that some participants must continue to work a full-time job while participating in this boot camp, and that some participants will be working at existing news organizations. We will give participants the option of being included in the announcement about who is accepted into the program — it will not be required to be identified as a boot camp participant.

Does applying for the GNI Startup Boot Camp preclude me from applying for other GNI-related programs or funding?

No, it doesn’t. You should apply to whatever opportunities are best suited for you at this moment — applying to multiple ones will not help or hurt your chances of being selected.

How will I know if my idea, startup, non-profit, or company is a good fit for this?

If you would fall into LION Publishers’ aspiring entrepreneur membership criteria, or full member criteria and you’re still in the early days, then it is probably a great fit.

Are you looking for volunteer coaches and mentors for the boot camp

Yes. Absolutely. If you have deep expertise in a very specific area like sales, marketing, finance or accounting, law relating to new business, or presentation coaching, I’d be really happy to hear from you.

I have more questions! Who can I talk to?

With the help of LION Programming Director Anika Anand, I’ll be hosting three information sessions between now and the application deadline:

  • Wednesday, August 5 at 2:30–3 p.m. PT (RSVP)
  • Thursday, August 13 noon–12:30 PT (RSVP)



Local Independent Online News (LION) Publishers is a journalism association helping local news entrepreneurs build and grow financially sustainable small businesses.

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Phillip Smith

👉 My passion is helping: 💰 Newsrooms make more money; 📈 News startups grow their audience; 🔥 Journalists succeed as entrepreneurs. Let’s talk 📩