Audience & Product Strategy Lead

The American Journalism Project is seeking an Audience & Product Strategy Lead to join its startup studio to guide, shape, and ensure the successful creation of new local newsrooms around the country, to advise and equip newsrooms in catalyzing excitement and support for local news.

The Audience & Product Strategy Lead will be our expert in growing, cultivating and measuring audiences and membership, and drive excellence in these disciplines for nonprofit newsrooms. They’ll enable the next wave of the nation’s largest local news startups by helping to hire, onboard and support founding audience and product leaders as they launch new organizations, and serve as the interim lead in the role until the hires are made. They will also play a critical role in partnering with local leaders in designing audience-centric product, technology, and data strategies that implement search, social and on-platform engagement and conversion best practices derived from the industry and our cohorts of nonprofit newsrooms.

This is a unique opportunity to join a growing, national movement to rebuild local news in communities across the country in a way that better serves the public, while being sustainable and independent. The American Journalism Project has raised over $130 million for the cause so far, and aims to catalyze enough investment in nonprofit local news to create a $2 billion sector by 2040, full of thriving, equitable, public service-oriented newsrooms that increase civic engagement and make communities work better for their residents.

Who we are

We’re an entrepreneurial team that’s passionate about journalism, civic engagement, and how local news plays a unique role in shaping our democracy. We help build and grow sustainable local news organizations all over the country — through financial investment, venture support, and movement building — that are governed by, sustained by, and look like the public they serve. Since 2019, the American Journalism Project has committed more than $40M of investment in 37 nonprofit news organizations across the United States. Learn about our grantees.

Our team is deeply connected to our mission and supportive of each other’s goals and overall well-being. We aim to be an organization where everyone feels heard, respected, and valued. We are an entirely remote, distributed team and strive to maintain a healthy, fun, and productive workplace, working alongside smart, energetic colleagues who enjoy one another and the work. Meet our full team.

Our values

  • Local First: We know that local journalism must serve and be led by local communities. We make a practice of listening to, and making decisions with – not for – those communities, and connecting them to find strength in each other. 
  • Bold Leadership: We understand the severe economic challenge facing local news and thus democracy, and we embrace a sense of possibility with courage, urgency, and perseverance.
  • Constant Learning: We recognize the unknown in front of us. Therefore, we operate with humility and a commitment to continuous improvement and collaboration.
  • Commitment to Equity: We commit to creating a better, more diverse, and more inclusive news media that advances human and civil rights. We actively fight against injustice and racism, and that starts with doing the work ourselves.
  • Integrity: We accept the responsibility of earning trust every day. We operate with honesty, transparency, dignity, and respect, and without allegiance to party, ideology, profit, or power.

Your team

Our venture philanthropy is catalyzing the nonprofit field by building a portfolio of multi-stage organizations. We invest growth capital in existing organizations, we are seeding new organizations in partnership with philanthropy, and we have incubated talent-led startups pre-launch. 

You will join a team responsible for supporting this portfolio, and be focused on supporting pre-launch organizations to establish outstanding audience and product strategies. You will report to a vice president on our program team, and work closely with a growing team of dedicated staff and partner consultants who together are responsible for launching exceptional nonprofit local news startup organizations such as Signal Cleveland and Houston Landing. 

The position

This role is an extension of a bold new program that has been developing over the last few years, and there are few, if any, examples in the country with exactly this job description. People from a variety of audience development, product management and newsroom technology backgrounds are encouraged to apply, and will get training on the unconventional skills involved in this job. Successful candidates will be passionate about the role local news plays in communities and care deeply about its future; they will have experience working in or with media organizations, be eager to learn about the latest and most innovative practices in local journalism and digital media, and have an interest in strategy, operations, and management. This role will be critical in making sure local news startups have the right people, processes and tools necessary to eventually stand on their own as strong, growing, modern media organizations.

Successful candidates will always be actively learning how to evolve audience engagement strategies in a multi-platform world, curious about understanding the opportunities presented by new social platforms and thinking creatively about how newsrooms can use them to pursue their missions. The audience and product lead should be proactively looking inside and outside the journalism world for new ideas to test with portfolio partners.

In this role you will have the following responsibilities:

Newsroom incubation

  • Work with local news startups to develop creative, best-in-class product strategies that enable the mission and vision of their organizations, and help them achieve broad local reach and impact for their audiences, including audiences that aren’t traditional news consumers. Help them translate that strategy into staffing plans, collaborative organizational models and performance management.
  • Bring top audience and product talent into local news. Identify and proactively recruit resourceful, public service-minded audience and product talent at all levels to American Journalism Project-supported organizations. Draft exciting job descriptions, shepherd the hiring processes for key talent, then mentor and support that talent.
  • Partner with journalism entrepreneurs and startup leaders going through our startup studio program; shepherd their newsrooms through successful launch and prepare them for continued success, building trust and cultivating long-term relationships across the portfolio.
  • Help onboard startup team members and transition ownership of key capabilities and products. Facilitate cross-functional collaboration for problem-solving aligned around shared goals and clear metrics.
  • Work with startups to incorporate best practices from inside and outside the industry in establishing membership funnels that are in line with their missions; set membership revenue targets and equip the newsrooms with the technology, services, talent, and systems they need to grow membership revenue for their sustainability.
  • Proactively diagnose common startup hurdles and help facilitate plans of action to address them in collaboration with the startup partners.
  • Work with newsroom leaders on internal and external communications about their strategy, plans and hiring roadmaps, and help ensure alignment with gaps identified in AJP’s local information needs research.
  • Learn and execute on the American Journalism Project’s best practices and methodologies related to audience and product strategy and execution, organizational design, building equitable and inclusive workplaces, talent recruitment and management, systems setup and implementation, and all the other components of launching a news organization and starting to intentionally build an audience.
  • Responsible for evaluating and selecting initial vendors related to publishing, analytics, membership management and email.
  • Work closely with other team members as they provide similar incubation support to newsroom leaders on newsroom strategy.
  • Manage audience and product vendors and contractors in the incubation process as an interim chief audience and product officer, including pre-launch activities such as standing up preview websites, capturing early interest with email signup forms and online donation systems to build a strong base of founding members to kick start membership revenue efforts. Provide product input on other proposals and contracts as needed.

Portfolio support

  • Create a scalable, efficient consultative operation that can support as many newsrooms as possible with coaching and guidance. Develop and curate evergreen resources, templates, guides and other self-service materials for portfolio publishers so they can focus on the most complex, challenging problems to solve.
  • Gain an intimate, execution-level understanding of best practices across the country in building audiences, making journalism accessible, and growing a strong membership base, stay up to date on lessons from the field about how to make them successful and scalable, and incorporate those lessons into the American Journalism Project’s startup studio methodologies.
  • Build a network of known partners and vendors that can support the different needs of portfolio newsrooms. Create evaluation rubrics for partner solutions that account for where different newsrooms and their startup teams are in their journey towards sustainability.
  • Facilitate newsroom-to-newsroom relationship building and intentional cohort-based sharing of best practices, methodologies, tools and benchmark data between portfolio newsrooms through communication platforms and workshops.

Background and skills

We know not all strong candidates will have all the skills we list. That’s OK. Research shows that women and people of color are less likely to apply for a position if they don’t meet every skill listed. At the American Journalism Project we are committed to creating a better, more diverse, and more inclusive news ecosystem, and that starts with doing the work ourselves. So if your past experience doesn’t align perfectly, but you know this is the role for you – please tell us! 

An ideal candidate will have…

  • A deep understanding of modern news product management practices, how to help set and strategically align business, audience and technology goals.
  • Significant experience working hands-on with or in media organizations around audience development, product management, newsroom technology or membership programs, preferably in the startup or early stage. 
  • Used the same or similar experience to play a consulting or advising role for organizations on early audience and product strategy or coaching individuals and teams on tactical implementation of best practices, especially in startup environments.
  • An extensive, cultivated network of practitioners inside and outside the industry for consulting, partnership and recruiting.
  • Capacity to properly calibrate handling inbound support requests from a growing number of portfolio newsrooms.
  • Management experience (in any field) preferable but not required. Interest, readiness, and willingness to learn leadership and management best practices are a must. 
  • Excellent written and verbal communication skills, including the ability to synthesize large amounts of information and clearly communicate key insights, with a strong grasp of business concepts and numbers. Must be a persuasive communicator.
  • An understanding of the value of diversity, equity, and inclusion in workplaces, newsrooms, and coverage; willingness to learn and coach others through operationalizing equity and inclusion.
  • Meticulous attention to detail and accuracy in documentation. 

This role is a fit if you are… 

  • Excited about gaining experience building, leading, and growing sustainable news organizations, while putting your product skills and experience to impactful use.
  • Enjoy the process of successfully launching products, shipping solutions for users and being obsessed about how to best serve audiences.
  • Enthusiastic about tackling challenges in a fast-paced startup environment, and have the stamina to continuously experiment and see projects to completion that help nascent news organizations succeed.
  • Motivated to set clear, ambitious goals and help implement the tools, process and culture to measure and meet them.
  • Willing to think outside the box to solve problems for which there are no blueprints for solutions.
  • Highly empathetic; you have an affinity for collaborative work, love for mentoring and inspiring others, and doing whatever it takes to get them to successful outcomes.
  • Accustomed to working in environments where feedback is liberally given and taken.
  • Intellectually curious, a strategic thinker and an innovative problem-solver, including a proven ability to create and manage organizational change.
  • A person with strong personal responsibility and accountability, results-oriented, adaptable, skilled at situational management (including being able to manage up, laterally, and down).
  • A person with passion for making the country a better, more equitable and just place for its residents by helping to build a new local news ecosystem across the U.S.

Compensation & benefits

Our total compensation package is competitive in the nonprofit and philanthropic sectors, and we are committed to supporting our team with what they need to show up every day, ready to bolster the local press our democracy deserves.

We benchmark our salaries against similar organizations, and use a scale that considers job complexity and magnitude of responsibility to determine role levels and corresponding base salaries, as well as offer regular opportunities for salary increases. The salary range for this position is $149,361 – $164,297. Read about our benefits here.

What to expect in the hiring process

Our approach to hiring is to create a consistent and transparent process for all candidates. A cover letter, resume, are required to apply. We hope to fill this role as soon as possible, though the hiring process can typically take from a few weeks to several months. We will do our best to communicate with you about timing expectations throughout the process.

Candidates who advance to later rounds of this process can expect multiple interviews with members of our hiring committee. Semi-finalists will be asked to complete a written assignment designed to help us understand your thinking and approach to the role, and you will be offered an optional prep session to ask any questions that will help you put your best foot forward in this process. We aim to truly get to know you, to help you fully understand the role you’re applying for, and to get to know your prospective team.

Please submit an application through our portal. Download the full job description here. If you have any questions please feel free to email with “Audience and Product Strategy Lead” in the subject line.

Information session

We held a live information session to answer questions about the position – you can see the recording from the session here.

The American Journalism Project is dedicated to equal employment opportunities for all applicants and employees. The American Journalism Project encourages people of all races, colors, national origins, ancestries, creeds, religions, genders, ages, disabilities, veteran status, sexual orientations, and marital statuses to apply.