Local Media Association and Local Media Foundation have released a new report detailing lessons we learned from our work with industry collaboratives.

We launched our first collaboration in March 2020, and to date, have launched or managed nine collaborations including geography-based and topic-based formats.

Why do we believe in collaboration? Because the industry gets stronger when we learn from each other. By focusing our collaborations on the dual goals of producing great journalism and promoting sustainability through business transformation, we know participants gain knowledge they can apply in their companies.

Why did we write this report? A few reasons. First, LMA is intensely focused on reinventing business models for news, and we believe collaboration is a big part of business transformation. Second, many news outlets still do not participate in collaboratives — or some media companies have worked on a single project with a similar media outlet, and consider that enough collaboration.

In this report, we break down the various types of collaboration and what local media organizations can learn from each approach. It’s a menu of collaboration, if you will.

The first type of collaboration is around content, when newsrooms identify an underreported topic in their community and agree to publish stories together. A key ingredient for this type of collaboration to be successful is for participating news organizations to break down old competitive habits to work together for the good of the journalism and the audience.

Next, we share how collaboratives can go a step further through agreeing on a shared mission to accomplish the group’s goals. For collaborations to have a shared mission, they must have buy-in to participate in the group from top company executives. Otherwise, the time and resources spent will not be worth it.

We also share about collaborations that work together to gain shared knowledge on a specific topic. The key ingredient for this type of collaboration is a strong emphasis on training, sharing of sources, and a goal for reporters to truly deepen their knowledge.

Our fourth example explains collaboration through technology partnerships. This could be through a tech startup company or a funder, but the goal is to work together to solve a technology problem facing the industry or collaborative participants. The key ingredient for any collaboration among media organizations and technology companies is that all parties must be completely focused on solving the problem.

Next we share examples of collaborations that are making strides in bringing in new revenue. This is arguably the most successful area of LMA’s collaboratives, and something we believe is essential for every collaborative. Collaborations must look at revenue for long-term sustainability, and also explore multiple sources of revenue. Having one funder doesn’t guarantee sustainability for the future.

Last, we share examples of how collaborations have formed a new, standalone organization. While many collaboratives become nonprofits, we believe that for-profit entities can also grow out of collaborations. For collaborations looking to form a new organization, we have found that strategic planning is the key ingredient to chart a path forward.

If you have questions or would like to learn more after reading this report, reach out to Penny Riordan at penny.riordan@localmedia.org.

The Center for Cooperative Media at Montclair State University provides valuable resources, research, and community building for news collaborations. We at LMA/LMF consider them valued partners. Check out their website for extensive resources.