From News Catalyst and LION
Introducing The Tiny News Collective
Today we’re proud to announce a new effort to make the path to journalism entrepreneurship easier: The Tiny News Collective, a new partnership providing the tools, resources and commonwealth of knowledge to help people build sustainable news organizations that reflect and serve their communities.
The project is a collaboration between News Catalyst and LION Publishers, along with a group of industry leaders and partners. The Collective isn’t trying to “save” local journalism as we know it. We are empowering people to build something new and better: a true, ground-up ecosystem of diverse, locally focused newsrooms that are from and for local communities.
Our mission is to help bring equity into the news and information ecosystem by democratizing the process of starting sustainable local news businesses and supporting people who have been historically excluded from media and media ownership.
We will do this at scale: Our goal is to nurture and grow 500 sustainable local news organizations over the next three years, at least half of them based in communities that are unserved or underserved, run by founders who have historically been shut out.
“We’re excited to provide access to long-sought support for tiny news organizations as they navigate the process of getting started,” said André Natta, Tiny News Collective board chair.
“It’s equally important to me to be able to provide a platform for presently underrepresented communities, large and small, and for those founders to have a space to speak to each other as they move forward,” he said.
Launching a news organization is time-consuming, complicated, expensive — and risky. The vast majority of news startups don’t begin with deep-pocketed investors and splashy coverage in industry press. Most are launched by one or two founders who are passionate about news and information and motivated to serve their communities, but with no outside help and limited resources.
Many of these tiny news sites fail not because the founders weren’t passionate or hard-working, but because any small mistake at an early stage can be fatal. This is why media ownership is inaccessible to so many, and why we have built The Tiny News Collective to give founders the best possible chance to succeed.
Kara Meyberg Guzman, one of our board members, co-founded Santa Cruz Local, a local news outlet that serves Santa Cruz County, Calif., in 2019.
“It’s really hard to launch and build a financially sustainable news organization, let alone as a millennial woman of color. We don’t have equal access to institutional funding. So we had to bootstrap. We built this company from the ground up,” she said.
“All around the country there’s entrepreneurs like me. I joined the board of the Tiny News Collective because I want to make it easier for others like me — women, people of color, young people, and those with nontraditional journalism backgrounds — to enter this industry and build successful companies,” she said.
By bringing together our unique support structure, suite of services and technology platform, we will dramatically lower the cost, complexity and time required to start a local newsroom and achieve sustainability. We can spin up newsrooms in a matter of days, and spin off sustainable newsrooms just as easily when they are ready to go independent.
A Unique Structure
Our structure — essentially a form of fiscal sponsorship — allows us to efficiently share services across our newsrooms, thus dramatically lowering costs in order to provide resources like libel insurance, legal assistance, accounting, operations support and access to a community of peers through LION Publishers.
Our team, partners and advisors include some of the best in the business. We have expertise in entrepreneurship, marketing, analytics, local news, technology, management, accounting, product and First Amendment law. Our founders will have access to expertise that rivals the largest global news organizations.
By leveraging developments in open source software and serverless cloud infrastructure, we built a super scalable publishing platform that costs pennies compared to the alternatives. All of the tooling is pre-configured and optimized for a local news site tuned to a reader-revenue-focused business model.
Our pricing model is still being finalized, but The Collective will be able to offer the platform, training, legal assistance, back-office services and everything else for around $100 per month — a fraction of what it would cost on the open market. LION membership is included in the price, giving founders access to additional training and an entire community to learn from.
Applications for our first group of founders will open early 2021, but from Tuesday forward those who are interested can sign up at our website: tinynewsco.org. Anyone who is committed to begin the entrepreneurial journey in the news industry and is passionate about their community is an outstanding candidate for The Collective.
News Catalyst, based at Temple University and supported by the Knight-Lenfest Local News Transformation Fund, is leading product and technology. LION Publishers, an association serving aspiring and existing independent news entrepreneurs, is developing the training, onboarding and community elements of the project in partnership with the Google News Initiative.
Alley Interactive contributed design work to the project. And we are working closely with Newspack, a project of WordPress.com and the Google News Initiative, to ensure that when one of our newsrooms is ready to move to their platform, the migration will be seamless.
All of our legal work has been contributed by Alexander Papachristou at Lawyers for Reporters and Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft LLP.
At The Tiny News Collective, we help communities build newsrooms.
We provide the tools, resources and commonwealth of knowledge to help people build sustainable news organizations that reflect and serve their communities.
We support voices historically excluded from media and media ownership.
We believe a world where everyone can participate in creating relevant, accurate and culturally conscious local news and information is one where everyone can more fully engage in civic life, make more informed decisions, and better understand the world around them.