(February 24, 2022) — To further its mission to help local media companies discover new and sustainable business models, Local Media Association has made a strategic investment in BlueLena, a service provider that helps media outlets develop successful subscription, membership and donation programs.
LMA completed the transaction this week in tandem with Automattic, Inc., which led this investment round in BlueLena. Automattic, originator of the WordPress content and commerce ecosystem, also announced an agreement between its Newspack business unit and BlueLena to augment the suite of publishing tools Newspack offers to small and medium-sized publishers.
The LMA board and senior leadership agreed that BlueLena is well positioned in the media technology ecosystem to help address critical needs for smaller local media organizations to strengthen consumer revenue streams.
“This is an important step in the evolution of Local Media Association and our mission to reinvent business models for news,” said Nancy Lane, CEO of LMA. “Rather than stockpile money for a rainy day, we are choosing to invest in an R&D company that will drive revenue and audience growth for small to midsize local media organizations. From the moment we saw the BlueLena demo, we knew this could be game changing. We’ve known Daniel Williams for a long time and have deep respect for him. Teaming up with Kinsey Wilson and the team at Automattic/Newspack made this a no-brainer.”
“The LMA board has never shied away from making bold moves and taking risks — it’s in our DNA,” said Catherine Badalamente, chair of the LMA board of directors and incoming CEO of Graham Media Group. “The vote was unanimous to support this investment. We hope it helps BlueLena fill gaps in local media infrastructure, in turn improving the financial health of the local news ecosystem.”
The business agreement with Newspack, bolstered by the investment from its parent, Automattic, also gave LMA leaders confidence that BlueLena’s solution set would align well with the sustainability needs of small and midsize media outlets — including publishers of color, a focus area for LMA and its affiliated Local Media Foundation.
One example: Of the 10 publishers in the Word In Black collaborative, six have converted their digital properties to WordPress and Newspack, and would be eligible for discounts on BlueLena services because of the new Newspack business partnership. Several have already engaged BlueLena for its services, and more are expected to follow.
“Our partnership with LMA has been a key part of our strategy of addressing the needs of small independent publishers,” said Kinsey Wilson, founder and head of Newspack. “We’re delighted they chose to join us in this investment in BlueLena.”
BlueLena has formed partnerships with Pico, ActiveCampaign, Zapier, SurveyMonkey and Tableau to provide an integrated marketing stack built to support registration, monetization, activation and engagement for local news outlets. The company also has partnership agreements with longtime industry-related research and development firms, including TownNews, Social News Desk, Sparkloop and Subtext.
BlueLena founders Daniel Williams (also its CEO) and James Gold are both well-known in the local media industry. Prior to starting BlueLena, Williams and Gold were founders and managers of LEAP Media Solutions, a full-service marketing solutions provider that supported more than 600 global media brands. LEAP was acquired by BlueVenn, LTD in 2017. In 2021, BlueLena expanded its leadership team with the addition of two other industry veterans: Ned Berke, vice president/strategy, and Danielle Beausoleil, vice president/agency services.
“We are grateful for the support of LMA, Automattic and Newspack. This investment comes at a crucial time as community media organizations confront the urgent need for building long-term sustainable business models,” Williams said. “There is no one-size-fits-all solution for publishers, and we are inspired by the diversity of news organizations and business models that comprise the BlueLena, Newspack and Local Media Association communities. We are excited about the potential for accelerating growth and enabling industry transformation through this collaboration.”
With the investment done, LMA leaders will turn attention to collaborating with teams at BlueLena and Newspack on ways to strengthen consumer revenue programs for local media.
“We like that BlueLena aligns and builds value with established platforms and service providers, rather than revisiting technology challenges that have already been addressed,” said Jay Small, LMA chief operating officer. “And we really like that the BlueLena services work well at the smaller end of the scale of local media organizations — they have an urgent need for affordable but elegant consumer revenue solutions. Beyond that, there’s certainly potential for the suite to work well for larger publishers, too.”
BlueLena was founded in 2020 by an experienced team of journalists and news media marketing executives to create a sustainable future for independent local media. We do so by deploying world class technology and delivering the expertise and professional services to build and support editorial, subscription, membership and donation models for long-term success. Today we support over 150 newsrooms across the United States and Canada.
At Automattic, our goal is to make the web a better place. With products like WordPress.com, WooCommerce, Jetpack, Tumblr, and WordPress VIP, we help support customers through web hosting, eCommerce, security and backups, enterprise infrastructure, and more. Automattic is a distributed company with more than 1,900 employees working from 96 countries speaking 121 different languages. We believe in open source, and the vast majority of our work is available under the GPL. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube. For more, visit automattic.com.
About Local Media Association / Local Media Foundation
Local Media Association brings all media together to share, network, collaborate and more. More than 3,000 newspapers, TV stations, radio stations, digital-only publications, and research and development partners engage with LMA as members or constituents of our programs. As a 501(c)(6) trade association, LMA is focused on the business side of local media. Its programs and labs focus on revenue growth and new business models. LMA helps local media companies develop their strategies via cutting-edge programs, conferences, webinars, research and training.
Local Media Foundation serves as the innovation and transformation affiliate of LMA. Incorporating our four strategic pillars — business transformation, journalism funded by philanthropy, industry collaboration, and sustainability for publishers of color — LMF helps provide local media companies the strategies and resources for meaningful innovation and impactful journalism projects.