By Bob Brown • President and COO, Swift Communications
Chair, LMA Board of Directors
It has been an honor to serve as chair of the LMA board of directors in 2020. Despite the curveballs thrown to us by COVID-19, it has been a year of tremendous growth and clarity for Local Media Association.
Our board conducted our annual strategic planning process virtually over two days last month. We met for six hours in total and had 100% of board members in attendance. We were also joined by the chair, first vice chair and secretary of the Local Media Foundation board. Most board members participated in committee meetings leading up to the board retreat — this helped us be efficient and effective in a virtual setting.
We had robust discussions and a few debates. We are thankful to Matt DeRienzo, editor-in-chief at the Center for Public Integrity, for serving as our facilitator and keeping us on track.
At the end of the two days, we felt better than ever about our mission to reinvent business models for news. And we plan to make continued investments in our four core pillars:
Journalism funded by philanthropy. Our Lab for Journalism Funding, with 16 publishers, is off to a strong start. The participants are seeking to raise $2.25 million collectively, and by all accounts, they will greatly exceed this number. Our work in this area is expanding into fiscal sponsorships. In 2020, we served as fiscal sponsor for more than 275 organizations. If you would like more information, contact Jay Small.
Industry collaboration. We currently manage three industry collaboratives: Word in Black, Oklahoma Media Center and Solving for Chicago. Our philosophy is news collaborative meets business transformation. The goal is to drive revenue, audience and long term sustainability for all partners, in addition to producing great journalism. New for 2021 — we will launch a collaborative focused on climate in early Q1. We are looking for 25 news organizations to participate. Contact Frank Mungeam if you are interested in learning more.
Sustainability for publishers of color. In 2021, we will launch a national website and newsletter strategy for Word in Black. The business plan has a revenue budget of $1.8 million after the end of Year 1 with a mix of community contributions, virtual event sponsorships, branded content and more. We’ll also launch a collaborative focused on business transformation for three diverse Ohio publishers (announcement coming soon).
Business transformation. This pillar encompasses many initiatives including The Branded Content Project. Recently content modules were made available to all LMA and LMC members free of charge. The New York Amsterdam News was one of the first to capitalize with a $100,000 contract from a new advertiser thanks to our series on active aging. In a few weeks, we’ll be announcing a data-driven project that has the potential to dramatically change our reporting capabilities.
In 2020, nine major funders supported the work of LMA/LMF. Special thanks to Facebook Journalism Project, Google News Initiative, Inasmuch Foundation, Walton Family Foundation, Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, Knight Foundation, Solutions Journalism Network, Local Media Consortium and Democracy Fund. It was the best year in our 48-year history and we can’t wait to see what 2021 will bring.
At the end of this year, I’ll be turning over the gavel to Tom Sly, vice president of digital revenue, The E.W. Scripps Co. I’m looking forward to working with Tom and the entire board on the continuation of our strategic plan. We challenge all media members and our R&D partners to engage with us as we all work together to figure out and identify new business models that will sustain and grow us for many years to come.