Local news incubator info session Q+A

These are responses to question that came from the audience during a hosted webinar on the incubator. 

After the incubation period, how does/does AJP consider the question of sustaining/permanent funding?

While additional funding is not presumed or guaranteed, there will be an opportunity for cohort participants who have successfully launched to pursue growth grant funding in the future from the American Journalism Project. Successful grant seekers typically demonstrate a path to leverage AJP investment and support to grow to a newsroom operating budget of $1M or more in annual revenue. 

Are you looking for organizations who replicate Texas Tribune’s model? 

We welcome applicants who are working on focused coverage at the state or municipal level and interested in pursuing diversified revenue for their effort. 

For founders who are working on ventures with the goal of covering multiple markets, how should we best answer the question: what is the state of the local news market in the geographic focus of your project?

Please make an effort to answer based on the geographies you are interested in covering – whether multiple locations in a single state or dispersed markets across the country. Think about why you are selecting these markets and why a new news organization is needed. That should incorporate some understanding of the existing local news ecosystem in the markets you are targeting.

Am I eligible if I have a prototype or is that also too mature?

We would need to know more specifically where the product is in its development and encourage you to apply for full consideration.

Our organization is a new startup set up as a for-profit. We however are planning to establish a non-profit arm by 2023. Can we still participate in the program? Our goal is to run our news journalism platform as a non-profit so as to maintain independence and lack of influence.

Applicants who plan to launch nonprofit newsrooms are welcome to apply.

The application asks applicants if they are POC or “underrepresented or marginalized” folks. Does that include white women over 55?

We especially encourage inquiries from organizations that are led by and serve traditionally underrepresented communities. Underrepresented or historically marginalized communities include ethnic, racial, and other communities with historically lower participation in fields and industries relative to their representation in the U.S. population. We know there are great entrepreneurs and organizations who won’t fit everything described in our grantmaking rubric or who provide important public service to their communities that we have not considered. We welcome a conversation about your organization and how it is serving local information needs.

What if there is a functional MVP (minimum viable product) launched as a test case around a production concept, but no research has been done in the market?

We would need to know more specifically where the product is in its development and encourage you to apply for full consideration.

For those of us who are beyond “idea” and have begun research, but are clearly pre-launch, what’s the best way for us to get specific guidance on how to address that in the application?

A strong and clear articulation of the concept is recommended, with a statement that speaks to your willingness to be flexible with your program and business model.

For the sake of this opportunity, how narrow or wide is AJP’s definition of “news”? Are you open to non-traditional forms of media and non-traditional means of journalistic storytelling?

We welcome innovative new methods to gather and disseminate information and the organizations we support are committed to independent journalism of the highest standard. Examples of such in the nonprofit local news ecosystem include Outlier Media,  Documenters and City Bureau. Please review the American Journalism Project’s core criteria and funding rubric carefully when considering your application. 

If one were to be accepted into the program, how should salary be budgeted?

The budgeting of salary will likely vary by market and founding team needs. There is an expectation participants will leverage the funds to at least hire a second staff person within the funding period. 

Does AJP/Google have other opportunities that could support projects that have already been launched?

For more information on what the American Journalism Project supports, please visit our “For Grantseekers” page. For more information on Google News Initiative Programs, please see here

We are still in the early phase of building our concept, though we have started publishing as a volunteer start-up to test our concept and this year we have started to formalize our community listening and building our business model. Are you open to such entities?

Yes we are! Please consider submitting an application.

Could a nonprofit that doesn’t currently have a primary focus on local news production (but that is journalism adjacent) serve as a founder, along with a journalist?

The new entity must be able to ultimately stand on its own as a freestanding nonprofit newsroom producing independent, local news. The incubator is not a funding mechanism to build out programs that will sit under existing nonprofit organizations.

During the presentation it was mentioned that growth was a key indicator of success for ventures in the program. What are some other success factors AJP + Google News Initiative is looking for in ventures?

Success factors vary by market and model. Our grantee portfolio is proving out successful, diversified revenue strategies that combine major giving, audience memberships, foundation grants, and corporate support. All require delivering high-impact content to your community and excellent articulation of a strong case for support. For more on how we are measuring impact please visit our website

Could we participate if we are a small for-profit organization now, and willing to change to a non-profit? Regarding the startup side – if we have only website articles, blog format and would like to expand to video, podcast format – is it something that could fit to this program?

Existing news organizations do not qualify.

We have an organization (not set-up as 501c3) that has online media (articles, essays) but not news/journalism and the organization wants to begin news. Research has not been started but the community has been identified. Would this be a fit for this particular AJP program?

The startup would need to be positioned as its own standalone entity. If someone or a team from the existing organization would plan to lead the independent news organization, feel free to apply.

I have a for-profit solution based publication that I often feel would be better as a nonprofit. Would you all be open to helping someone convert it to a nonprofit?

Unfortunately, this incubator is not designed to convert existing for profit entities to nonprofit newsrooms. The American Journalism Project periodically issues calls for Letters of Inquiry, and we encourage you to follow us for future opportunities that may be a better fit. You may submit a general inquiry to the American Journalism Project.

I am thinking about a model similar to Chalkbeat for my startup. Will you consider that? Basically, a single-subject news organization with local chapters?

We want local news for local audiences, but are open to the model that powers it (single city, single state, single subject multiple places, etc.) Open Campus is another example of how the local principle merges with a national organizational infrastructure.

If we form a new non-profit, but would be partnering with an existing one, e.g. public radio, would we be eligible?

As long as the new organization will be a standalone nonprofit newsroom, partnership for content creation and distribution with another media outlet would not preclude you from applying, and in fact, we encourage it.

If a founder is pre-launch but is already conducting market research should they apply?


Do you count B-Corp for profits as a nonprofit?


Is the program available for newsrooms focusing on news in Spanish?


Are your participants required to use specific website hosting platforms?


Would existing nonprofits need to create a new, separate 501 (c) 3 for the project, or can the project be built within the existing nonprofits?

The newsroom would need to be its own entity, separate from an existing nonprofit organization.

In terms of successful applications by previous cohorts, are there best practices in terms of deliverables and examples that we can see?

This is the initial launch of the incubator and would represent the first cohort. 

Is there a component of the program that helps identify the next generation of leadership for the organization?

We believe in the importance of hiring and developing talent. Growing organizations will be a focus of the program, including organization design, building out full leadership teams, and consideration of succession planning where appropriate.

You mentioned your “foundational research,” is that information you share with all potential start-ups in advance of an application?

No, that is information each cohort participant will collect as the basis for their market research.

How are these projects sustained financially? Do they reapply for repeated funding, or is grant funding capped for a certain time and they must raise the money on their own?

The expectation is that time will be spent during the incubator to develop a case for support, build a network of support, raise seed capital and initially operate the newsroom. Ongoing support from the American Journalism Project is not guaranteed, but the goal of this program is to support an organization to independently launch and be able to sustainably raise diversified revenue.