Thanks, as always, for reading Solution Set. We have a jam-packed issue for you today. Keep scrolling to learn more about: 

  • How the Polish news site Outride.rs developed a loyal audience by going ‘newsletter first’ from an outstanding case study written by Federica Cherubini for Membership Puzzle Project. 
  • How you can apply to a free course on grant writing strategies from The Lenfest News Philanthropy Network and RevLab at The Texas Tribune. 
  • A new report and playbook on how to assess the health of local news ecosystems.
  • A series of upcoming events sharing strategies on how journalists can fight misinformation and disinformation.

I’m also excited to share that my colleagues Maddie Vassallo and Kyra Miller will be back in your inboxes with a special edition of Solution Set on Monday. In celebration of International Women’s Day, we’re kicking off a month-long series of interviews with leading women in local journalism focusing on how they got started in news, how they built their careers, and how they’re mentoring the next generation of women journalists. We can’t wait to share these with you. 



Case study: How Outride.rs developed a loyal audience by going ‘newsletter first’

By Federica Cherubini, Membership Puzzle Project

Outride.rs launched in 2017, at a deeply polarized moment in Poland. It was two years after a conservative, populist government came to power, sparking civil unrest among more liberal Poles with many of its reforms. 

Journalists Jakub Górnicki and Anna Górnicka were concerned by the way that national turmoil was drawing Poles inward and crowding out thoughtful debate. They launched Outride.rs to help Poles understand how global issues affect them, and to discuss them with proper context.

“A division into local issues and world affairs does not exist any longer. All humankind faces the same challenges.… We want to better understand the reality around us and share this knowledge with you,” they explained in their editorial policy.

They quickly gained a loyal following for Brief, their visually gripping, magazine-style weekly newsletter that provides nonpartisan, in-depth international coverage from a Polish perspective. Their value proposition was clear, and their earliest newsletter subscribers loved Brief.  They knew that they had a strong foundation for membership. 

But they didn’t have enough readers yet – nor insight into how they acquired them – to confidently launch a membership program. So in 2018 they decided to postpone their membership launch and focus instead on Brief, pivoting to a newsletter-first editorial strategy to grow their loyal audience and build a strong foundation for membership. 

By the end of 2020, they had grown the Brief to more than 35,000 subscribers – an increase of 24,000 in less than two years – and signed up 8,000 people up to a second newsletter they launched. After a pandemic-driven postponement, they launched their membership program in December 2020. 

Many newsrooms rush to launch their membership program, skipping a critical prerequisite: developing and getting to know their loyal audience. This case study will walk you through the steps they took to first put Brief at the center of the readers experience and then aggressively grow that newsletter list, laying a strong foundation for membership. 

Membership Puzzle Project supported Outride.rs effort to become a newsletter-first organization through MPP’s Membership in News Fund, which greenlights promising experiments with membership and audience engagement around the world. That means MPP gave Outride.rs funding, access to a learning community, and venture support for this project. Federica Cherubini, the author of this case study, was Outride.rs coach throughout this process.

Want more membership case studies? The Membership Guide has more than 30 of them along with practical advice for launching and sustaining a membership program.

Apply to these free grant writing courses!

The Lenfest News Philanthropy Network, The Lenfest Institute’s community of practice focused on fundraising in journalism, and RevLab at The Texas Tribune are partnering to offer workshops for news organizations at every level of grant writing experience this spring. 

More details about both Intro to Grant Writing and Advanced Grant Writing are below. The deadline to apply for either program is Monday March 8 at 11:59 p.m. EST. Both programs are free.

Intro to Grant Writing for News Organizations

Dates: April 6 – May 4, Tuesdays at 2pm EST, 60-90 min sessions

In this five-week course led by Penn Creative Strategies you will work with experts in the field and small peer-groups to learn the science and the art of crafting competitive grant proposals.

During the course you will work through each step of the grant writing process, and participants will have the opportunity to have one of their grant applications reviewed for feedback at the culmination of the course. In order to facilitate an interactive learning experience, this course will be limited to 30 participants. 

Application deadline: Monday March 8 at 11:59 p.m. EST.
Learn more and apply to join Intro to Grant Writing for News Organizations.

Advanced Grant Writing for News Organizations

Dates: April 7- May 5, Wednesdays at 1pm EST, 60-min sessions

Led by RevLab at The Texas Tribune, this training will help development staff hone their process and craft their messaging to make compelling cases for philanthropic support of newsrooms. Designed for people with some grants experience, this course is suited for those who completed Intro to Grant Writing for News Organizations or development professionals from other industries who are new to journalism fundraising.  

In this four-week course you will learn practical tips and study real-world examples from news organizations and foundations, both large and small. Led by Terry Quinn, chief development officer of The Texas Tribune, the course draws heavily on methods developed over the Tribune’s 11-year history. Terry will be joined by guests from other newsrooms and foundations, including The Philadelphia Inquirer and The Lenfest Institute. This course is produced by RevLab at The Texas Tribune.

RevLab is a grant-funded resource center that helps publishers expand revenue-generating capabilities. RevLab is based within The Texas Tribune and funded in part by the Facebook Journalism Project.

Application Deadline Monday March 8 at 11:59 p.m. EST.
Learn more and apply to join Advanced Grant Writing for News Organizations.

A new report and playbook for evaluating local news ecosystems

This week, The Google News Initiative, Democracy Fund, and Knight Foundation published a new report and playbook written by Impact Architects’ Hannah Stonebraker and Lindsay Green-Barber. 

The report found that by and large communities with greater racial and ethnic diversity had fewer total news organizations and nationally owned newspapers covering their communities. People of color are less likely to trust local journalism than white people, the report found. 

The report also shows that as the number of journalism organizations per capita increases, “community satisfaction also increases, controlling for overall education of the community” and “voter turnout increases, controlling for education.”  

However, it noted that “the health of a news and information ecosystem can’t be understood by the presence or absence of journalism organizations alone. Instead, baselining needs to begin with efforts to understand community information needs and whether or not they’re being met.” 

The report’s authors created a framework for thinking about news ecosystems that incorporates non-journalistic information providers, which are also critical components of any thriving news ecosystem. 

They then used this framework to produce case studies on the information ecosystems of nine American cities.

Check out the full report and playbook here

How the media can protect the truth and defeat disinformation

The 2020 presidential election and its aftermath has prompted a two-part journalism summit that will explore what the media can do to help the public spot disinformation and understand journalistic practices.

Six Pennsylvania journalism-based organizations have organized the summit, scheduled for two consecutive Tuesdays, March 9 and 16:  the Press Club of Western Pennsylvania, Center for Media Innovation at Point Park University, The Lenfest Institute for Journalism, the Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association and its foundation, and Thomas Jefferson University’s Communication Program.

First session, March 9, Noon-1:30 p.m. EST

Led by Kathleen Carley, Ph.D., a professor in the School of Computer Science’s Institute for Software Research and director of the Center for Informed Democracy and Social Cybersecurity, Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. The Center is a Knight-funded initiative launched in 2019 to study disinformation, hate speech and extremism online, how to detect them, how they spread, and how to counter their impact.

Second session, March 16, Noon-1:30 p.m. EDT

NewsGuard’s CEO Gordon Crovitz (former Publisher of The Wall Street Journal) and NewsGuard general manager Matt Skibinski will release and report on the findings of NewsGuard Pennsylvania Media Trust Report and then lead a Q&A on remedies and best practices in addressing misinformation and distrust in media. 

The summit is free, and registration is now available here

Thanks for reading Solution Set. Please feel free to reach out with any questions or suggestions for what we should be covering in this newsletter. You can subscribe to Solution Set here.

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