We've identified four emerging publishers that represent the diversity of strategies and best practice approaches that demonstrate the potential for long-term success.
The past few years have marked a time of exciting transformation and experimentation through reinventing business models for news.
From the growth of emerging native digital publishers serving underrepresented communities, to the rise of journalism funded by philanthropy and the near universal adoption of reader revenue models, there is no shortage of inspiration to draw upon as we look to strengthen the quality and availability of credible local journalism.
We are grateful for the opportunity to support many of the industry’s most innovative publishers, and we wanted to highlight a select few that we think are worth following in 2022.
This is by no means an all-inclusive list, but a sample of several that we think represent the diversity of strategies and best practice approaches being pursued across the media landscape and that demonstrate the potential for long-term success.
At BlueLena, we do not believe there is a one-size-fits-all approach to developing long-term sustainable reader revenue models. Instead, our consultants work with clients to align technology, processes and strategy to their specific business objectives — continuously adapt and evolve based on a rigorous test-and-learn methodology and the identification of best practices. These publications are examples of this tailored model.
We trust you too will find inspiration in these companies, and we are always happy to discuss ways we can support your own strategy development and execution.
Long Beach Post (Long Beach, CA)
The Long Beach Post is a member-supported, digital-first daily publication that “aims to create an informed and engaged community by providing a platform for our city’s diverse voices, holding those with power and influence to account and by reporting the truth with authority, integrity and heart.”
Under the leadership of its publisher David Sommers, and guided by a Community Editorial Board, the for profit Long Beach Post is demonstrating that a business model built with deep commitment to community trust and public service can and does work.
A graduate of the Meta Accelerator Program, over the past year the Long Beach Post has also leveraged Report for America to fund impactful reporting on topics of interest and importance to its community, as well as working with the Local Media Foundation through its COVID-19 Local News Fund to expand access to critical health and education related news amidst the pandemic.
Working with BlueLena, the Long Beach Post has increased its email database from 33,673 in January, 2021 to 54,885 in January, 2022, a growth rate of +63%. More importantly, it has acquired over 1,200 new paid members and donors while maintaining an open-access website — which is central to its mission of providing news that is free and accessible to all.
The Long Beach Post was the featured guest on BlueLena’s November client roundtable, and its presentation can be viewed here. We believe they are among America’s most promising independent daily news organizations and one to watch.
The Record North Shore (Wilmette, IL)
The Record Community News Group is a nonprofit, independent media outlet that publishes The Record North Shore, a digital news site that launched in November, 2020 to the northern Chicago suburbs.
When 22nd Century Media ceased operation in March 2020, credible local news was ripped away from tens of thousands of suburban readers. Three of the company’s editors united with a common goal to response responsible community reporting to the North Shore of Chicago’s suburbs.
Under the leadership of Joe Coughlin, Megan Bernard and Martin Carlino, the Record North Shore has quickly established a reputation for producing credible, courageous, community-first journalism on a variety of platforms, including its daily website, a robust newsletter portfolio and prolific social media presence, and podcasts featuring guests and topics of interest in their communities.
Working with BlueLena, in its first full year The Record North Shore has converted over ten percent of its registered readers to paid status by offering three different membership plans ranging from $6.99 per month to $150 per year.
A member of the Institute for Nonprofit News, The Record North Shore has participated in the NewsMatch program in 2021 and other community fundraising campaigns that have augmented its reader revenue membership program with larger gifts from foundations, institutional and private donors.
We believe The Record North Shore is demonstrating the ability to launch a reliable and sustainable community-news outlet, fill a critical need for credible local reporting, and build a foundation for success through pursuing a diversified funding strategy. They are one of our news organizations to watch in 2022.
The Assembly (Raleigh, NC)
Unlike many of the examples of new media organizations emerging in the wake of the destruction of traditional newsrooms, The Assembly was launched in North Carolina where there is an already vibrant and growing collaborative community of independent newsrooms covering a range of topics from education, state politics, health news, the arts and social issues and culture.
The Assembly instead is a new digital magazine about the people, institutions and ideas that shape the state — with an emphasis on high quality long-form journalism supported entirely by individual members and foundation funding.
Under the direction of its founder Kyle Villemain and contributing editor John Drescher (formerly of the Washington Post and News & Observer), the Assembly relies primarily on freelance writers (for which they pay well-above market rate) to produce interesting, deeply reported, nuanced stories about North Carolina.
In less than a year, The Assembly has cultivated a membership base of over 1,000 recurring paid readers and has partnered with BlueLena to accelerate its audience, membership and reader revenue growth. Last week, it announced an expansion through the addition of a Managing Editor and Revenue Growth Director.
The Assembly is committed to the belief that readers will support high-quality, immersive and unique magazine style reporting in a digital format, and the early results suggest they are right, which makes them one of our news organizations to watch in 2022.
Issue Media Group (Detroit, MI)
The final company to watch is not one website, but in fact a collection of over twenty weekly digital magazines published under the umbrella of Issue Media Group.
Established in 2005 in Detroit, MI, today Issue Media Group leverages the power of solutions-journalism and narrative journalism for communities across seven US states to address issues ranging from diversity, equity and inclusion, environmental sustainability, affordable housing, water quality and other topics of importance. The model leverages coalitions of community partners to underwrite high-quality original reporting and investigative journalism.
IMG’s work has been recognized and supported by leading journalism organizations nationally including the Knight Foundation, Lenfest Institute, Google News Initiative, and Solutions Journalism Network.
Going into 2022, BlueLena is now working with IMG to further develop and grow their audiences, and introduce new ways for readers to support their work through both donation and added-value membership models.
The full Issue Media Group portfolio of sites can be viewed here, and we have identified them as one to watch in 2022.
Interested in BlueLena?
And if you are interested in exploring whether BlueLena might be a great fit for supporting your audience growth in 2022 and beyond, we invite you to complete a short five minute questionnaire that will allow us to provide an initial assessment — no obligations and completely free of charge. Simply visit this link.