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 of 21%. Last fall, eight more outlets joined the lab as Cohort 2, and their numbers are trending in a similar direction through nine months.
Local Media Foundation is excited to announce the launch of Cohort 3, consisting of eight Black-owned local news organizations: Denver Urban Spectrum, Flint Beat (Michigan), Indianapolis Recorder, LA Focus, Minnesota Spokesman Recorder, Our Weekly (Los Angeles), Bay State Banner (Boston), The Times Weekly (Joliet, Illinois). BloomLab and LMF leaders selected these media outlets from 25 applicants after a thorough review process, including a panel of outside experts and individual interviews conducted by the three BloomLab directors.
The review panelists were Dr. Paulette Brown-Hinds, publisher of Black Voice News and founder of Voice Media Ventures, and Denise Rolark Barnes, publisher of The Washington Informer, in addition to the three BloomLab directors: John Celestand, Apryl Pilolli and Robert Walker-Smith. The Knight x LMA BloomLab is 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 participating organizations will receive technology grants of $50,000. The 18 publishers in Cohorts 1 and 2 will continue their work in the lab through 2024. Cohort 3 will benefit from the early learnings of the previous two cohorts focusing on the lab’s three key areas: technology upgrades, business transformation consulting and shared learning opportunities.
“It is really exciting to see the Knight x LMA BloomLab evolve with the launch of Cohort 3,” said Nancy Lane, CEO, Local Media Association. “The work is hard but the payoff is huge. We have publishers in the first cohort with overall revenue growth of more than 50%. One of them quadrupled staff size. Transforming to a digital future requires serious technology and human capital resources. We are grateful to the Knight Foundation for making this kind of impactful investment in the Black press.”
The eight publishers will benefit from training and one-on-one coaching from the lab’s three directors, in addition to monthly group meetings often featuring industry experts. The lab directors will also visit each organization in-person to collaborate with local teams, advancing technology tools and implementation, sales outcomes and organizational capacity.
“We look forward to welcoming another amazing group of Black-owned local news publishers to the BloomLab,” said John Celestand, program director of the Knight x LMA BloomLab. “Because of the learnings we’ve been able to gather working with the first two Cohorts, I believe we are in a prime position to assist these eight new publishers and help them advance their businesses immediately.” Leaders from all eight organizations met with members of the BloomLab and LMF teams on July 31 in Chicago, coinciding with LMA Fest, for the official Cohort 3 launch event.
Meet the cohort
Denver Urban Spectrum
“Being selected to participate in the final phase of the Knight x LMA BloomLab experience is more than just an honor. It reflects the hard work and commitment in journalism that Denver Urban Spectrum has exuded for more than three decades. We are grateful that it is recognized by affording us the opportunity to enhance our mission of spreading the news about people of color – for and about our community.” — Rosalind “Bee” Harris, publisher
“We are excited to be part of Cohort 3 of the BloomLab. Our Flint Beat team is working to develop a diverse revenue strategy and implement systems that will help operations run smoothly. Through the lab, we hope to learn best practices, implement systems and gain revenue through digital advertising. We aim to build a strategy to help sustain our newsroom without relying heavily on one area for revenue.” — Jiquanda Johnson, founder and publisher
“I am thankful and incredibly excited that the Indianapolis Recorder Newspaper will be a Cohort 3 member of the Knight x LMA BloomLab. This transformational opportunity will enhance our technology and accelerate our business growth. I am eager to learn and collaborate with current and former cohort members, as this opportunity will help propel the Recorder toward another 128 years.” –Robert Shegog, publisher
“L.A. Focus is thankful to have been selected to participate in Cohort 3 for the Knight X LMA BloomLab. We are confident that the program, with its transformative business model techniques, can propel our operations to the next level and help us achieve outstanding success in this digital age.” — Lisa Collins, publisher/CEO
“The Minnesota SpokesmanRecorder is beyond excited to participate in BloomLab Cohort 3. Working with the Lab will help us increase our multimedia platform’s presence and value as a critical resource provider, and increase engagement with our readers. What a wonderful opportunity to come as we begin our 90th year of continuous publication!”— Tracey Williams-Dillard, Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder
“I am delighted that Our Weekly Los Angeles Newspaper has been selected for Cohort 3 of the Knight x LMA BloomLab. I am confident that working closely with three coaches who are experts at what they do will help develop Our Weekly’s digital footprint in the Los Angeles market. The web is one of the areas of critical growth, and we want Our Weekly’s website to be one of the top areas in our market for getting news about African Americans and the communities in which we serve.” — David Miller, chief operating officer
Bay State Banner
“We are excited to participate in the BloomLab since we just purchased one of the oldest Black newspapers in New England that had a very slight digital presence. We are looking to transform the Bay State Banner website into a community portal, where people can apply for a student loan or find a mental health expert from their communities and expand our reach into different New England states. We just started a Black business portal where African American businesses of all types can put their name onto an active list for the public to see. It is growing exponentially, and the BloomLab can help teach us to tailor it for maximum exposure.” — Andre Stark, COO
The Times Weekly
“I am excited to join the BloomLab cohort and look forward to learning new ways to build our digital footprint. Participation in the lab is what we need to aggregate our digital newsroom.” –Jayme Cain, Publisher