Lenfest Institute for Journalism Announces Local News Sustainability Grants

PHILADELPHIA (Jan. 30, 2019) — The Lenfest Institute for Journalism today announced 13 winners of its latest grant programs, aimed at fulfilling its mission of supporting sustainable models for local journalism and information in service of democratic society.

The Institute awarded two types of grants: The Local News Business Model Challenge for projects that explore new business models for sustainable local news and information organizations, and the Philadelphia News Ecosystem Collaboration Grants for planning or prototype projects bringing together organizations in the Philadelphia area for closer collaboration. The grantees will share funding totaling $475,000, and will meet over the coming months to share learnings with each other and the wider journalism community.

Local News Business Model Challenge

The Institute selected seven grantees nationwide for the inaugural Local News Business Model Challenge. The grant builds on the Institute’s first year of innovation grantmaking in 2018 to focus on the key challenge facing local news: finding and nurturing new revenues and sustainable business models.

The projects directly address this focus either by optimizing reader-supported revenue such as subscriptions and memberships, or by creating new revenue streams through products that leverage the trust and expertise of journalism organizations. The projects include a mix of national news enterprises, local news organizations, technology startups and public radio. The projects have applications for both for-profit and non-profit media organizations.

The projects will lead to the creation of technologies or services that can be more widely adopted, and local business models that can be applied in regions around the United States.
The grantees are:

The Associated Press and Newsday: To prototype a model for leveraging Newsday’s local data with AP’s news automation expertise to produce content that engages audiences and adds revenue through new local news products.

• Distributed Media Lab: To develop a distributed model for monetizing syndication using the Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) standard, expanding revenue potential for advertising and donations/memberships.

• Pico: To prototype paid user marketing campaigns connected to audience data with the goal of increasing subscription and membership conversions.

• VTDigger: To launch self-serve portals and a new revenue stream for user-sponsored content such as press releases, classifieds and birth, wedding and engagement announcements.

• SembraMedia: To create an audience growth and engagement toolkit in Spanish providing best practices on the most popular tools for driving local news revenue through donations, events, services and digital advertising.

• Technical.ly: To create a prototype of a “Recruiter’s Dashboard” that will leverage reader data to match users with relevant job postings.

• WBUR: To explore new mechanisms and practices for listeners to purchase items through affiliate programs that relate to products tied to the station’s journalism.

Philadelphia News Ecosystem Collaboration Grants

The Institute selected six projects for its inaugural Philadelphia Ecosystem Collaboration Grants. The grant program collaboration is designed to encourage partnership on a broad array of journalism projects serving the public interest of the diverse communities of the greater Philadelphia region. This inaugural grant-making effort has been launched in the belief that public-service journalism and civic information can and should be highly inclusive of multiple voices, disciplines, communities, institutions and individuals.

In this spirit, the following projects build partnerships between major Philadelphia-area universities, larger media organizations, smaller community media and an array of civic organizations. While there are multiple partners listed for each project, there is in each case a single grantee, which is listed first in the description. Each grantee is responsible for fiscal and program management:

• The University of Pennsylvania Center for Public Health Initiatives (CPHI) and its Healthy Library Initiative, together with The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia Department of Public Health and the Free Library of Philadelphia: To raise public awareness and expand journalism and information sharing around a grassroots effort to equip more Philadelphians with naloxone, a drug that counters the effect of opioid overdoses, that will track people trained, encourage naloxone-carrying “commitment pledges” and tell stories of lives saved.

• The Reentry Think Tank, together with Philadelphia Reentry Coalition, Village of Arts and Humanities, People’s Paper Co-op, Defender Association of Philadelphia, Community Legal Services, PhillyCAM, and Resolve Philadelphia.

• Free Press, together with Germantown Info Hub, Kensington Voice, The People’s Education Center, Temple University, and WHYY: To train and mentor community members to work with residents, develop stories with journalists and boost information that helps counter stigmatized coverage.

• Mighty Writers, together with CAMDEN, NJ: A Spirit Invincible, WHYY, the Center for Environmental Transformation in Camden and the Rutgers Camden Office of Civic Engagement: To support a daily after-school workshop for Camden teens at a student newsroom focusing on issues relating to life in the Waterfront South neighborhood of Camden.

• Media, Inequality and Change Center at University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School for Communication and Rutgers University, together with Media Mobilizing Project and The Philadelphia Inquirer Opinion Section: To create a series of public dialogues between a diverse group of Philadelphia’s leading journalists and Philadelphia’s leading public advocates from across the political spectrum, in the run-up to local elections.

• Untitled Folder LLC, together with Neo4j, Linode and Code For Philly: To create an open-source web application project designed to empower citizens, journalists, data scientists, coders and creatives with the ability to harness open data for journalism, public information, and civic good.



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