Driving sustainability for Black-owned local media through technology
BloomLab on social media
Technology is a roadblock for many local media companies as they work to transform to a digital future. The Knight x LMA BloomLab will tackle that obstacle head-on during a three-year immersive experience with 26 Black-owned local media outlets, with initial funding of $3.2 million from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. The publications will receive technology grants of $50,000, with additional funding expected to increase those amounts.
The Knight x LMA BloomLab is an extension of LMA’s Digital Transformation Lab for Black publishers that launched in early 2019. That lab helped drive digital revenue and audience growth, along with new product launches such as newsletters, for five Black publishers.
The new Lab will include three full-time dedicated staff members who will work with the publishers on an everyday basis. The entire Local Media Association/Local Media Foundation team will also be involved in the BloomLab as subject-matter experts in areas such as reader revenue, branded content, philanthropic funding and more.
The Lab will start with the 10 publishers that make up Word In Black, including The Atlanta Voice, New York Amsterdam News, Houston Defender, Washington Informer, St. Louis American, AFRO News, Seattle Medium, Sacramento Observer, Michigan Chronicle and Dallas Weekly.
Applications for the second cohort of eight publishers will open in Spring 2022. A third cohort will be announced in the first quarter of 2023. All Black-owned local media outlets are encouraged to apply. To stay up-to-date on the Lab and application process, please sign up here:
Additional funding is expected, allowing us to increase the technology stipends from $50,000 per publisher to $80,000, and add more cohorts of Black-owned local media organizations. Interested funders should contact Nancy Lane, LMA/LMF CEO, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lab focus areas:
- Technology upgrades: Identify and implement technologies to accelerate publishers’ local business transformations. The Lab team will work with the individual publishers to vet local needs and technology projects; negotiate with providers; approve and distribute stipends; and assist with implementation, onboarding and optimization.
- Business transformation consulting: The Lab team will provide one-on-one and group consulting and training, including digital revenue and product strategies for newsletters, memberships, branded content, events, philanthropic funding, advertising and marketing services. The Lab team will serve as an extension of each publisher’s staff and will provide onsite training and implementation of new technology.
- Shared learning opportunities: The Lab will provide outside expertise on relevant subjects as well in-person experiences.
“The LMA Digital Transformation Lab [2018-2020] introduced me to a whole new world of digital strategies, tactics, resources, and tools. The hands-on customized training recognized my limitations yet challenged me to experiment and embrace new technology taking calculated risks. The result was the construction of a new Defender on multiple platforms providing better service to our readers, advertisers, and community. With the Knight x LMA BloomLab, we can invest in the infrastructure necessary to help train our staff, purchase new equipment, and fine-tune our strategies ensuring our sustainability.”Sonny Messiah Jiles, CEO and Publisher, Defender Media Group, Houston
The Knight x LMA BloomLab team
Dedicated lab directors
Digital Revenue Director
Robert Walker-Smith is an accomplished sales executive with a strong background in audio, digital and print solutions. He previously served as general sales manager for Beasley Media Group, where he managed sales teams to drive revenue growth across audio, digital, events and social in Central and Coastal Carolina; and digital sales manager for Urban One, where he was managed sales teams in Charlotte and Raleigh to drive double-digit digital revenue growth and new business acquisition. He also served with Thryv, Vivial and Haines Local Search.
Apryl Pilolli is a neurodivergent technology, content and marketing expert who started at age 16 in the local media industry. Her career has included serving as the director of innovation at Social News Desk; numerous product roles in sales, content and marketing at Cox Media Group; and serving as an industry consultant, technology investor and on-air entertainment journalist. She has won numerous awards from The Associated Press and American Advertising Federation.
John Celestand, former NBA champion, brings a wide range of experience including journalism, public broadcasting, program management, community engagement, business development and much more. He previously was the director of engagement at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting in Washington, D.C., where he oversaw community engagement initiatives. He led a cohort of 11 public media stations that participated in the American Graduate Initiative, whose long-term commitment is to help young people succeed in school, career, and life. He also managed 15 stations participating in CPB’s Coming Home Collaboration, which provided grant funding, resources, and training to rural public media television and radio stations.
Supporting LMA leaders
(Co-Lead) Chief Content & Collaboration Officer
(Co-Lead) Chief Operating Officer
Chief Executive Officer
Managing Director, LMA Technology Resource Center
Strategy and Revenue Consultant
Meta Branded Content Project
Latest news from Knight x LMA BloomLab
The Knight x LMA BloomLab, a major expansion of Local Media Association’s Digital Transformation Lab for Publishers of Color, had its official virtual launch event on April 28. The purpose of the BloomLab is to improve sustainability for Black, locally owned and operated media companies via technology. The BloomLab team — Robert Walker-Smith, digital revenue […]
After months of conversations and planning, the Knight x LMA BloomLab: Sustainability for Black Locally Owned & Operated Media was announced in late February, with $3.2 million in funding from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation to cover the first three years of Lab effort. In the BloomLab, key leaders of 26 Black-owned […]
John Celestand will join the Knight x LMA BloomLab on March 9 as program director. The former NBA champion brings a wide range of experience including journalism, public broadcasting, program management, community engagement, business development and much more. Celestand will be responsible for the BloomLab’s strategic resources to foster long-term sustainability and independence of Black-owned […]