Knight Foundation announces third round of support to help newsrooms strengthen digital platforms
The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation today announced the third set of recipients from its $2 million, three-year initiative, Sustainable Publishing Solutions (SPS), to strengthen digital publishing solutions in newsrooms.
This year, 25 newsrooms will receive $20,000 one-time grants to adopt, manage or upgrade the digital publishing solution of their choice. Knight support will help these newsrooms use tools that prioritize and enhance audience and business development, editorial content production, revenue streams and methods to increase membership and audience engagement.
“As a former Sustainable Publishing Solutions grantee, I know how valuable it can be for a small newsroom to get the opportunity to reimagine their technology stack—and then receive funding to implement those changes,” said Duc Luu, Director of Sustainability Initiatives/Journalism at Knight. “New technologies can be a game-changer that simultaneously improve newsroom workflows and the audience experience, which is why we are excited to welcome this next group of publishers.”
The program has had a profound impact for publishers who upgraded their technology infrastructure.
QCity Metro was awarded a grant in 2021 and has used the funds to build out their existing CMS by launching the Livin’ Charlotte portal which introduces residents and newcomers to Black-owned businesses, restaurants and events in Charlotte. This expanded section of the newsroom’s website has allowed them to expand their advertising revenue and establish new sponsorships with statewide tourism bureaus and corporate businesses.
“We believed this was something we could do, but sometimes you just need a little bit of seed money,” says Glenn Burkins, Editor and Publisher of QCity Metro. “I think this is really just the beginning.”
The Prison Journalism Project (PJP) used funding to migrate to Newspack in October 2021. “It is impossible to overstate the impact that the SPS grant had on our organization and how it profoundly changed the trajectory of our growth,” said Teresa Tauchi, PJP’s director of product and marketing. “At the time of the grant, we were working with an almost all-volunteer staff and miniscule budget, one so small that the SPS grant almost doubled our overall operating budget at the time.”
PJP’s new CMS has connected readers with the 1,500+ stories written by more than 500 incarcerated individuals in prisons around the country and increased its overall reach. Furthermore, this migration has helped legitimize their work to other foundations and helped PJP secure additional grants.
“The Sustainable Publishing Solutions grant has been a transformational opportunity for these 75 publishers,” said Christina Shih, senior vice president of revenue at News Revenue Hub. “Far too often, investments in systems and infrastructure are put on the back burner and this grant gave news organizations the permission to prioritize tools that touch every facet of the newsroom operation.”
As in the first two years of the initiative, the 25 selected newsrooms include a mix of nonprofit news organizations, small commercial community newspapers and new digital startups. Of the selected newsrooms, 88% are nonprofit or fiscally sponsored organizations; 36% are led by or serve communities of color; and 56% are committed to delivering local journalism.
Selected newsrooms may use Knight funding to employ new digital tools by changing their content management systems, making upgrades to their existing publishing systems, or hiring support to maximize the use of the systems they have in place.
This year’s SPS grantees include Advocate Media of Dallas, Baltimore Beat, BenitoLink.com, Berkeleyside, Centro de Periodismo Investigativo in Puerto Rico, City Limits in New York, Enlace Latino NC, High Country News, India Currents, Investigate Midwest, LkldNow, NancyOnNorwalk, Nuestro Estado in South Carolina, Patagonia Regional Times, Planet Detroit, PublicSource, Searchlight New Mexico, Shift Press, The Current GA, Haitian Times, The Maine Monitor, New Orleans Tribune, San Francisco Public Press, The Tributary, and VTDigger.
The selection of newsrooms was managed by News Revenue Hub, a nonprofit organization that has worked with more than 70 publishers on building membership revenue, growing audiences and developing sustainable business practices. In addition to receiving funding, selected newsrooms will access training sessions, led by the Hub, on utilizing and leveraging business and audience development tools and strategies.
The 25 newsrooms were selected from an applicant pool of 74 news organizations. Led by News Revenue Hub, an expert panel of industry experts evaluated each application on a basis of application strength, grant utilization, and industry impact.
The SPS program has now provided $1.5 million in investment to 75 newsrooms over the past three years.