Driving sustainability for Black-owned local media through technology, business transformation
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 tackles that obstacle head-on during a three-year immersive experience with 26 Black-owned local media outlets, with 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 lab includes three full-time dedicated staff members who work with the publishers every day. 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 started 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. Two other cohorts of eight publications each have since joined the lab.
Additional funding is expected, allowing us to increase the technology stipends, provide additional consulting and subject-matter expertise, 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
Chief Operating Officer
Chief Executive Officer
Strategy and Revenue Consultant
Chief Business Transformation Officer
Latest news from Knight x LMA BloomLab
New efforts will enable audience growth and deeper engagement (September 8, 2023) — Adriana Lacy, an award-winning journalist and consultant, has signed on to work with the 26 Black-owned local news organizations in the Knight x LMA BloomLab, focusing on strategies for digital audience development and engagement. Lacy’s consulting will include reviews of each publication’s […]
(July 6, 2023) — Since the Knight x LMA BloomLab launched in Spring 2022, the focus has been on leveraging technology to grow revenue and audience, leading to long-term sustainability. In its recent impact report, the lab reported growth of 133% in digital revenue after one year for Cohort 1, along with overall revenue growth […]
In the year-plus since the Knight x LMA BloomLab launched, 18 Black-owned media organizations participating in the lab (10 in Cohort 1, eight in the more recent Cohort 2) benefited from substantial progress toward long-term sustainability. The lab, focused on sustainability for Black-owned local news media and supported with a $3.2 million grant from the […]
Local Media Foundation is now accepting applications from Black-owned and -operated local media outlets to participate in the Knight x LMA BloomLab. LMF will select eight additional local media outlets to join 18 publishers currently participating in the Knight x LMA BloomLab, a three-year, $3.2 million immersive experience for Black-owned local media outlets, funded by […]
Branded content is a significant revenue opportunity for smaller publishers. Borrell Associates and The Meta Branded Content Project, in 2022 research, found the amount spent on content marketing has risen to $80 billion. This increase is one of the reasons the Knight x LMA BloomLab focuses on this line of revenue. Executing an engaging and […]