UPDATE: By popular demand, we’re extending the deadline for organizations to apply for the Family and Independent Media Sustainability Lab by just a few days, to 11:59 p.m. Pacific time on Tuesday, May 9. If you have already applied, thank you! If not, please hurry to complete your application by next Tuesday!

(April 21, 2023) — Local Media Association is launching a new lab program aimed at finding paths to sustainability for family-owned and independent local media organizations, thanks to funding from Google News Initiative.

Directors of the LMA Family and Independent Media Sustainability Lab — FIMS Lab for short — and a team of expert consultants will work for one year with key leaders of 12 family-owned and independent local media companies, immersing in strategic business transformation work intended to advance them toward long-term sustainability and financial independence.

The FIMS Lab experts

Leading the FIMS Lab as full-time program director will be Dorrine Mendoza, formerly news partnerships and strategic program development at Meta and Facebook. Jay Small, LMA chief operating officer, and Julia Campbell, LMA chief business transformation officer, will serve as co-leads with Mendoza.

The three program directors will consult with Lab participants on product, process, operations, technology, revenue opportunities and general strategy. Industry-leading subject-matter experts will also serve as Lab coaches and consultants, including:

  • Jason Jedlinski, veteran digital media executive with leadership experience at The Hill, The Wall Street Journal and Gannett. He will cover audience strategies and product development.
  • Peter Lamb, owner of Lamb Consulting and sales development expert. He will cover sales/revenue and marketing strategies.
  • LMA team members Nancy Lane, CEO, Frank Mungeam, chief innovation officer, and Penny Riordan, director of business strategy and partnerships, will also advise on strategy, journalism funded by philanthropy and reader revenue, respectively.

“We are adapting some of the lessons from the Knight x LMA BloomLab, while recognizing the constituency for the FIMS Lab will have different business characteristics and challenges,” said Small. “Revenue diversification and improved application of technology remain universal needs, and with 21% overall revenue growth in Year 1, BloomLab taught us we can make a big difference with programs like this.”

“The Google News Initiative is proud to partner with LMA on this new lab focused on family and independently owned media companies,” said Chrissy Towle, director, News Partnerships, Americas Ecosystem and Associations, Google. “This segment of the local media industry is incredibly important to small and midsize towns and cities across the country. The lab will focus on long-term sustainability as well as revenue and audience growth. We’re excited to see the results.”

Lab leaders will develop specific curriculum based in part on needs identified in the participating media companies — but focus areas will include:

  • General strategic planning and business transformation.
  • Building sustainable advertising, branded content and marketing services portfolios, especially focused on digital.
  • Consumer (reader) revenue and first-party data strategies.
  • Rethinking local media as both product and service.
  • Making the most of journalism funded by philanthropy.
  • Optimizing technology application to strengthen revenue opportunities, make processes more efficient and better control expenses.
  • Developing opportunities for participants to collaborate on topic-focused journalism projects with philanthropic funding.

Lab participants also will benefit from general strategic planning and consulting services, including on-site visits by subject-matter experts with agendas tailored to each participating organization’s needs. And the Lab will cover costs for each participating company to send its main stakeholder to an in-person, full-cohort meeting in Chicago coinciding with LMA Fest, the week of July 31.

Any local news media company in the U.S. or Canada with at least $1 million annual revenue that can demonstrate it is family-owned or independently owned is welcome to apply. Qualified organizations may include single-location/single-outlet organizations as well as family or independent media groups serving multiple locations. Also, media type does not matter: digital, print or broadcast media should all qualify, as long as they are significantly focused on local news and journalism.

Applications are open now through 11:59 p.m. Pacific time Tuesday, May 9.

“Family and independently owned media companies are some of the most innovative and experimental players in the local media space,” said Campbell. “We can’t wait to see the new models, testing and exploration that will take place with 12 brilliant teams collaborating and building new concepts together.”

“Family and independent media owners were the founders of SNA, now LMA, 53 years ago,” said LMA CEO Nancy Lane. “They could have sold their businesses like many others did, but instead stayed for the right reason — a commitment to high quality news and information for the communities they serve. They don’t have the corporate resources that larger media companies have and that hurts their ability to transform at a rapid pace. This lab will go a long way in providing those types of resources to this important segment of the local media ecosystem.”

The Lab team will respond to any questions from prospective participants and interested parties — please send them to jay.small@localmedia.org.

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 pure-plays, 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, a 501(c)(3) charitable trust, serves as the innovation and transformation affiliate of LMA. Incorporating our four strategic pillarsbusiness 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.

Want to know more about FIMS Lab? Here are reasons companies should consider applying — and check out our Frequently Asked Questions.