We’re in a unique moment in time: local news is shrinking but the interest in high-quality local news is growing.
While journalists continue to be laid off, and many local news publishers are struggling to figure out their long-term financial sustainability, there’s increased interest in creating digital-first news publications to keep communities informed.
But, up until now, there have been very few affordable programs focused exclusively on the practical steps of launching a new venture that is tailor-made for journalism initiatives.
To tackle that problem, the Google News Initiative has partnered with LION Publishers to launch the GNI Startups Lab, an effort that will help aspiring news entrepreneurs in the U.S. and Canada prove there is a need and audience for their idea, build their news product and set their business on the path to sustainability.
No fees, no tuition, no income sharing arrangement. No financial barriers to your success. Just the hands-on support you need to become independent, and stay independent.
Applications are currently being accepted for our first news startup boot camp. This is an eight-week fully-remote program starting in September 2020. We’ll be accepting up to 24 teams of aspiring entrepreneurs who have identified a community’s need for better news and want guidance and coaching on how to launch, or continue to develop, a news offering that delivers a solution rooted in journalism.
Aug 17, 2020
Application deadline. Applications close at midnight Pacific time.
Aug 28 - Sept 3, 2020
Application review period.
Sept 4, 2020
All applicants notified of status of application.
Week of Sept 21, 2020
Boot camp begins.
Week of Nov 9, 2020
Boot camp finishes.
LION Programming Director, Anika Anand, and Boot Camp Director, Phillip Smith, will be hosting three information sessions between now and the application deadline. RSVP below:
“If you are looking to launch your own news organization, I pray you are lucky enough to be accepted into this program. I learned everything that I didn't realize I didn't know about journalism entrepreneurship, and now I'm about to launch. The experiments I developed in the boot camp showed me my product is viable. Now, I know exactly what to do next, and every day I'm getting some kind of validation.”
Beyond the Railroad
“The boot camp provided me with a clear path toward building an audience and bringing in revenue.”
The Discourse Cowichan
Like the last boot camp, If you apply and get accepted into the boot camp — you give it 110% — it will cost you nothing but your time.
That’s right: all of the boot camp costs are covered. This includes the weekly seminars and one-on-one coaching, several tools to help you refine and test your idea, access to our community of practice.
No fees, no tuition, no income sharing arrangement. No financial barriers to your success. Just the support you need to become independent, and stay independent.
Plus, upon successfully completing the bootcamp, you will receive a year-long “aspiring entrepreneurs” membership to LION Publishers.
Classes will begin the week of September 21 and end the week of November 9, 2020.
We are platform agnostic. That means you could plan to deliver your product through a podcast, newsletter, event series, app, messaging, videos, a website or anything else.
Also, we will not be accepting participants from businesses that want to serve journalists/journalism as their primary customers or legacy publications that are trying to make a transition to digital. We are also not looking for applications that are primarily aggregation of existing content.
You should consider this boot camp if:
We are especially interested in entrepreneurs who want to serve communities that don’t often see themselves or their stories reflected in their local news.
We’ll be selecting up to 24 teams.
The boot camp is entirely online. It’s intentionally designed to be an online experience because we want you to stay in your community and to do the work in that context.
There will be a 90-minute live webinar each week. At the end of the webinar, we’ll have a conversation as a group about the tasks you’ll undertake that week. Once participants are selected, we can choose the day/time that works best for everyone. The sessions will also be recorded for later viewing. At least once a week, teams will have a one-on-one coaching session with me. Teams can select this time each week based on their schedules.
Some weeks there will be extra “peer review” sessions, where teams present on their progress and we unpack the learnings.
In between our live video sessions, we’ll communicate using a chat platform that’s comfortable for everyone, e.g., Slack, private Facebook or LinkedIn group, etc.
We like to answer that by saying “at least part-time hours; ideally a full-time commitment.” We expect participants to plan for at least eight hours a week, preferably a lot more.
If you’ve already launched a project that’s less than 12 months in and aren’t sure what to do next, the boot camp should complement what you’re already doing.
If you’re in an existing full-time position and thinking about the boot camp to grow your side hustle into your main hustle, that’s great! You’ll want to think about how to fit the minimum number of hours into your schedule. (And, if the weekly webinar happens during your paying job working hours, you’ll need to make time to watch the recorded version.)
Ideally, you and your partner will be on the calls together. At least one of you is responsible for attending, or watching the re-cap. You can also switch off weeks if that’s easier.
Typically each week will consist of 90 minutes of seminar time, two or more hours of assignments, and two or more hours of readings. The more time you put into the assignments, the more you will typically get out of the boot camp experience.
We're excited for you to apply at any stage where you believe the boot camp would help you achieve your objectives. That said, We describe the boot camp as a pre- pre- accelerator program. Practically, that means this is for very early-stage entrepreneurs (or those with entrepreneurial aspirations) and early stage ideas.
You could simply have a strong sense of a problem you’d like to solve in your community, or you could have already taken steps to realize that idea. Both are a great fit.
If you simply have passion for starting your own journalism or information business and are still searching for the right idea, that’s also a great fit. You’ll want to take advantage of the pre-boot camp reading and exercises to help you define an idea to bring into the rest of the boot camp.
Yes and no. Pulling from interviews done with successful journalism entrepreneurs, we will discuss the common ways that new businesses are financed in the early stages. And we’ll point you to resources that can help you explore all of the options in more detail on your own time.
However, there will be no formal curriculum specifically on how to obtain grants, small business loans, or investment. We made this decision because it is far more likely that a new business will fail due to lack of customers rather than a lack of financing. So, for the boot camp, we will focus on finding customers first.
Yes and no. Your weekly assignments will result in documents that answer questions similar to what is often found in a business plan. But these will be in a format that we believe is far more useful in the early stages of a business. For example, simplified revenue projections, a growth roadmap, and various forms of “pitch” documents that help you clearly and concisely explain the idea to others.
Yes and no. We will discuss the options in the context of a decision that you’ll eventually need to make. And I’ll point you toward ample resources for when the time comes to make that decision.
However, in the earliest stages of a new venture, your focus should be on building relationships with your community -- readers, listeners, watchers, advertisers, sponsors, etc. -- and moving those relationships toward something that supports you financially.
The question of business structure can easily become a rabbit hole that can consume a lot of mental energy and limit your options far too early in the development of your project or business. If you’ve already made the decision, great! If not, that’s obviously fine too.
Applications are now open, and you can apply here by August 17, 2020. When applying, you will be asked to provide basic information about your personal and professional backstory, as well as the business idea that you hope to develop further in the boot camp. Here’s a copy of the application to download before you begin.
We understand that some participants must continue to work a full-time job while participating in this boot camp, and that some participants will be working at existing news organizations. We will give participants the option of being included in the announcement about who is accepted into the program –– it will not be required to be identified as a boot camp participant
Additionally, we will follow “Vegas Rules” during the boot camp –– meaning whatever is discussed in the boot camp, stays in the boot camp. Participants who do not abide by these rules will be dismissed from the program.
No, it doesn’t. You should apply to whatever opportunities are best suited for you at this moment –– applying to multiple ones will not help or hurt your chances of being selected.
Absolutely not. The most important thing we are looking for is that you’ve identified a customer/audience need and you have a very strong hypothesis on how to meet that need.
We hope so! This is a pilot program and our hope is that we can continue to offer more of these boot camps in the future. Make sure to sign up for our entrepreneurial journalism community on this page so that you can stay updated on future opportunities to work with us.
Feel free to email email@example.com and she will delete the application you don’t want us to consider.
Yes. Absolutely. If you have expertise in a specific area like sales, marketing, finance or accounting, law relating to new business, or presentation coaching, we'd be really happy to hear from you.
With the help of LION Programming Director Anika Anand, we’ll be hosting three information sessions between now and the application deadline:
If you’re unable to make one of those, please reach out directly to LION Programming Director Anika Anand at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions you have.
The Google News Initiative is Google’s effort to work with the news industry to help journalism thrive in the digital age. Our efforts focus on three pillars: working with the news industry to evolve their business models and drive sustainable growth, elevating quality journalism and empowering news organizations with new technology.
LION Publishers is a journalism association supporting independent online news publishers. Our mission is to help existing and aspiring local news entrepreneurs build and grow financially sustainable small businesses. LION members are creating the future of local news with independently owned and operated businesses that directly serve their communities. Learn more about becoming a member.